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Julius Caesar

★★★★

The Space

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

The Space

Reviewed – 11th March 2020

★★★★

 

“an ambitious and slick production”

 

Produced by Conor Gray and directed by Kate Bauer, a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s historical tragedy Julius Caesar is the latest production from theatre company The UnDisposables. Set in Rome in 44 BC, Julius Caesar follows the moral dilemma of the Roman senator Brutus (Sarah Dean) over joining the conspiracy led by Cassius (Rachel Wilkes) to murder the state’s popular leader Julius Caesar (Isobel Hughes). With the support of Casca (Georgia Andrews), Cinna (Jake Saunders), Metellus Cimber (Esther Joy MacKay) and Decimus Brutus (Rory Gradon), Cassius and Brutus succeed in their goal before they are plunged into civil war against Caesar’s right hand man Mark Antony (Room Sikdar-Rahman) and Caesar’s adopted son, Octavius (Grace Hussy-Burd).

The UnDisposables’ production aims to draw parallels between Rome’s civil unrest and the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion’s protest activities across the globe. The conspirators here are not just trying to protect the abstract values of liberty and freedom, but the planet itself. Before the play begins, the cast parade noisily around the stage holding signs about Caesar, and, reminiscent of the group’s protest in Leicester Square last December, all don fluorescent yellow hi vis jackets marked with an ‘R’ for Rome.

This is an intriguing comparison to make, but this theme is unfortunately not really explored beyond such superficial references. There is no real suggestion that the characters are concerned about a climate crisis. More props and alternative costumes – gas or face masks, dirtied clothes, near-empty water contains strewn across the stage – would certainly help to create a sense of imminent apocalypse. Rome’s descent into civil war could too be used more explicitly to reflect on the increasingly polarising nature of politics in contemporary society.

Hussy-Burd and Isobel Hughes are the standout performers. Hussy-Burd’s various roles are not major players, but she moves between them with great ease, shining best as Trebonius. Hughes has incredible gravitas as Caesar and commands the stage whenever she is present. It is a great shame that she is not a character in the second half of the performance. Wilkes, Dean and Andrews deliver their huge quantity of lines confidently with few mistakes or hesitations. There is also some fantastic choreography that all the cast execute well such as a perfectly in sync fighting sequence that serves to break up the narrative performance and provide some respite from the long speeches.

The audience are seated surrounding the stage, and space between and behind their chairs allow the cast to weave amongst them. The stage itself is largely bare, except for a few chairs that intermittently populate the space. A balcony overlooks the main stage space which is used in the latter half of the performance for more dramatic scenes. This space could certainly be used earlier, especially in helping to establish Caesar’s power and hold over the populace. Protest signs – many with humorous slogans reminiscent of those which have gone viral on social media – decorate the theatre walls.

Ominous music and sound effects (Tom Triggs) play throughout the first half of the play as the action creeps towards Caesar’s assassination. A particularly effective moment is the loud, echoey voice that delivers Calphurnia’s premonition of Caesar’s death. The lighting (James Ireland) does not vary too much other than to denote day and night, and there are few props apart from some potato peelers as rather distracting substitutes for knives and the colourful signage.

The UnDisposables’ Julius Caesar is an ambitious and slick production and succeeds best in its acting and sound design, but more focus on drawing out their contemporary environmental themes will elevate this production to a new level.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Phil Brooks

 


Julius Caesar

The Space until 21st March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Me & My Doll | ★★ | May 2019
Mycorrhiza | ★★★ | May 2019
Holy Land | ★★★ | June 2019
Parenthood | ★★★½ | July 2019
Chekhov In Moscow | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Open | ★★★ | September 2019
Between Two Waves | ★★★ | October 2019
Gasping | ★★ | October 2019
The Prince Of Homburg | ★★★★ | December 2019
Us Two | ★★★ | January 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Haus Of Kunst

★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

The Haus Of Kunst

The Haus Of Kunst

Crescent – The Vaults

Reviewed – 12th March 2020

★★★

 

“Valore’s routine is an absolute showstopper and would be the perfect closer”

 

The Haus of Kunst is a collective of diverse artists from dancers and singers to burlesque and pole dancers. Set in a prohibition-era bar, the Haus of Kunst treats the audience to an array of acts, all of which straddle the line between cabaret, burlesque and circus.

The show is rather slow to start with the drag king presenter Don McNasty performing a far from energetic rendition of No Diggity by Blackstreet ft. Dr Dre and Queen Pen. After ten minutes of back and forth, the actual show begins, opening strong with an incredible dance featuring burlesque feather fans from the sultry Cleopanther. After this, the Sweet Peas, two women dressed identically all in green, perform a cutesy but technically challenging flapper-style dance. The ‘world renowned’ tiger tamer Diva Hollywood takes to the stage next executing impressive whip tricks featuring an (un)lucky member of the audience.

Following this, Miss Laurie, who until now has provided musical accompaniment on the keyboard, sings a humorous song about how everything she does is for attention. Though funny, Laurie unfortunately forgot a large chunk of the song. The Sweet Peas then return for their second dance, this time stage fighting while balancing in pots and pans. The show closes with dancer Kitty Valore performing an exceptional pole routine to the song ‘Kiss the Girl’ from Disney’s The Little Mermaid followed by a final dance from Cleopanther to a medley of rap songs. Valore’s routine is an absolute showstopper and would be the perfect closer.

The set is relatively simple, but it’s barren nature rather conjures up the image of a once-great venue trying to find its feet again. A plain black backdrop and unadorned furnishings do not exactly make the upcoming performances seem like they’re going to be particularly exhilarating. Some more colour would go a long way in piquing the audience’s curiosity. Also, rather strangely, the acts all sit at the back of the stage throughout the entire show which detracts somewhat from the current performer. Exciting-looking acts waiting in the wings naturally attract an audience’s eyes and it would be nice if each act got their moment in the spotlight.

Varied lighting is not used to its full potential though it is unclear how much the production itself could control this seeing as McNasty’s request to turn off one particularly bright light was refused by the technical team. Still, some more colourful light displays would help to immerse the audience in the performances.

The acts’ costumes and outfits are incredible, most notably, Hollywood’s red and gold lion tamer ensemble, and Galore’s iridescent mermaid tail that she later sheds to perform her routine. Galore did take a rather long time with her off-stage costume change, but the wait is certainly worth it.

Haus of Kunst has a lot of potential and has an exceptionally talented cast, but some more style, flair and polish would certainly contribute to the bold, passionate and daring atmosphere that the collective so desires to create.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020