Outdoor performances in this country are always a gamble but who could have predicted the opening night of the Globe’s Julius Caesar in Oxford would coincide with a record-breaking heatwave?
Possibly the soothsayer, whose Ides of March warning fell on deaf ears, the weather being just one of the challenges that the intrepid cast of eight faced so admirably.
After having to move the performance out of the scorching heat into the safety of the Playhouse, on Tuesday, the rain showers dried up just in time for the opening scenes on Wednesday night in the beautiful riverside Rose Garden of Magdalen College School.
“SHAKESPEARE’S TURBULENT POLITICAL THRILLER, BRISTLING WITH BLOODY BATTLES AND ROUSING SPEECHES, WAS KICKED OFF IN FINE FORM“
Shakespeare’s turbulent political thriller, bristling with bloody battles and rousing speeches, was kicked off in fine form by Omar Bynon as the cobbler, joyously leading the audience in a chant of ‘Pompey is pants’.
Also playing the soothsayer, Bynon gives a solid, engaging performance throughout and, crucially, can also make himself heard above the traffic crossing Magdalen Bridge. Sadly, this could not be said for everyone and the dialogue was at times quite difficult to make out.
Technical difficulties aside, it was intriguing to witness director Diane Page’s take on this classically masculine story – the two leading roles of Brutus and Cassius are not only played by women but as women.
Strong performances came from Anna Crichlow as Brutus, whose powerful portrayal of the serious down-to-earth co-conspirator was perfectly matched by Charlotte Bate’s brittle Cassius.
“IT WAS INTRIGUING TO WITNESS DIRECTOR DIANE PAGE’S TAKE ON THIS CLASSICALLY MASCULINE STORY“
As a depiction of women in power, however, Shakespeare’s bombastic rhetoric didn’t always make the transition clearly enough.
As for the rest of the cast, Dickon Tyrrell’s Julius Caesar struck just the right note with more than a little Trump-esque hubris thrown in. Jack Myers as Caska/Octavius was ably versatile and Samuel Oatley’s jack-the-lad Mark Antony was innovative and interesting.
“well worth the very reasonable ticket price to see a fresh take on this age-old tale”
A blood-soaked, battle-ravaged, rabble-rousing play such as this was always going to be a big ask for a small cast, but was well worth the very reasonable ticket price to see a fresh take on this age-old tale.
The Globe’s Julius Caesar in association with Oxford Playhouse and Oxford Festival of the Arts runs until Sunday July 24. See oxfordplayhouse.com