This is certainly a major theatrical event — Cicero’s speeches, with their mixture of sarcasm and idealism, are great, but not everyone will enjoy the comic interpretation of some of these characters, and the storytelling does get a bit bogged down in the second part.
First seen at the RSC last winter, Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Robert Harris’ Cicero novels have a suitably epic feel to them and, anchored by an excellent lead performance from Richard McCabe, also have a real thrill factor.
The life of an extraordinary man living through an extraordinary age is too large for one play, and here the latter two novels of Robert Harris’ Cicero trilogy are adapted into two separate plays (Conspirator and Dictator).
Imperium II: Dictator continues a compelling look at (Roman) politics at the Gielgud Theatre but I do feel obliged to point out just how male-heavy the piece skews.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has today announced its forthcoming productions in London, including the epic historical thriller Imperium – Mike Poulton’s stage adaptation of Robert Harris’ best-selling Cicero books, which transfers for a limited season to the Gielgud Theatre from 14 June to 8 September 2018.
Either play stands alone – the first perhaps more easily than the second – but together the rich intelligence and lively wisdom of this political, intimate saga is to be treasured.
Murder, ambition, back-stabbing and sex. Politics is a dirty business but never less than thrilling in Mike Poulton’s Imperium, his terrific adaptation of Robert Harris’s Cicero Trilogy.
Richard McCabe as Cicero is a marvellous creation: a man risen from lowly beginnings through sheer intelligence and lawyerly eloquence, his genuine belief in the Republic and horror of autocracy fading sometimes endearingly into pomposity; his political gift for expediency always at war with his real principles.
Casting has been announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s highly anticipated stage premiere of Robert Harris’ Roman trilogy, Imperium, which will be led by Olivier and Tony Award winner Richard McCabe (The Audience) as Cicero, Siobhan Redmon as his wife Terenia and Joseph Kloska as his servant Tiro.
It’s fitting that in a Chichester Festival Theatre season that
ends with three of Chekhov’s early works they also feature a play so indebted
to his introspective, often melancholic style. Like Chekhov, W. Somerset Maugham has crafted a play
that has a tendency to be fascinating and at times incredibly frustrating but
that certainly deserves attention.
The plot centres on the home of a
country solicitor and the slow disintegration of his family playing out as we
watch. There are some incredibly well thought out performances, not the least
from Stella Gonet as the matriarch whose
perfect manners and visible love for her family hide the fact she is
desperately ill. Her children are all, in some way, broken and she initially
throws herself into looking after them before finally admitting defeat, and
confessing her relief that her days are numbered.
Her son Sidney, blinded in the Great
War thuds about the set, his walking stick bouncing off the furniture as he
hides his distress below a thick layer of sarcasm. It’s a fine depiction by Joseph Kloska whose vacant stares are
often somewhat unsettling and whose disability allows him to say what other
Elsewhere youngest sister Lois is
pursued by an aging lothario while eldest sister Eve shows signs of cracking
under the pressure of caring for her family. Justine Mitchell gives Eva a distinct vulnerability and we get the
impression she was never allowed to grieve for the love she lost to World War
I. Sadly her burgeoning romance with the seemingly disinterested Collie is
incredibly clunky and the long pauses (presumably director Howard Davies intention is to make the situation uncomfortable to
watch) come across almost as if neither actor is quite sure where the scene is
There are moments too when the script
descends into clichéd “stiff upper lip” territory that borders on pastiche.
Thankfully though, such moments
are followed by more dark humour and gloomy contemplation – a tone Maugham
seems much more comfortable with. But the lasting impression is of a play that
isn’t quite worthy of the fine cast performing it!