Seething with rage, that will leave audiences breathless at how quickly violence reveals the fragility of democracy, Bell Shakespeare presents Julius Caesar as its 2018 national touring production, directed by James Evans.
After four years directing Bell Shakespeare’s productions for school audiences, Evans is thrilled to lead the 2018 national tour, one of the most extensive undertaken by any Australian theatre company. Featuring Kenneth Ransom (Gods of Egypt, Belvoir’s Prize Fighter) as Caesar, the production will tour to a total of 28 venues around Australia.
“Julius Caesar is Shakespeare’s political thriller. It’s a masterpiece of intrigue and treachery,” says Evans. “Shakespeare explores what happens when fear infects a society, and I think everyone can relate to that. It deals with issues that are urgently contemporary – audiences will recognise themselves and their society in the play.”
“It’s also just a cracking great story, full of action and some of the most incredible language Shakespeare ever wrote. It will be a really exciting night in the theatre,” he adds.
Caesar has returned to Rome, triumphant after a war with the sons of Pompey. During the celebrations, a soothsayer warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March. Brutus, Caesar’s friend and ally, fears that the Roman republic will be destroyed if Caesar is crowned King.
Cassius and others convince Brutus to join a conspiracy to kill Caesar. Brutus’ wife Portia senses her husband’s unease and pleads with him to share with her what is going on, but he shuts her out. On the day of the planned assassination, 15 March, Caesar’s wife, Calphurnia, urges him to stay at home, but one of the conspirators, Decius, persuades him to go to the senate where the conspirators stab Caesar to death.
Caesar’s loyal ally and friend Mark Antony asks to speak at Caesar’s funeral and uses this opportunity to turn the citizens of Rome against the conspirators. Brutus and Cassius escape and Antony joins forces with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus to rule Rome in a triumvirate and plan the deaths of the conspirators.
The triumvirate declare war on Brutus and Cassius who argue bitterly with each other and Brutus reveals that his wife, Portia has committed suicide. Finally, they agree to march on the armies of Antony and Octavius. During the battle, Cassius, misled by erroneous reports of a loss, persuades his servant to kill him. Brutus commits suicide after his army is defeated and Antony praises him as the noblest Roman of them all.
“Julius Caesar is unlike any other play written by William Shakespeare. It is his most overt exploration of politics and power,” says Evans. The language of the play is direct and explosive: mob violence erupts, relationships fracture, and the republic crumbles, all through the power of the spoken word.”
“Shakespeare set the play in ancient Rome, but he was clearly examining his own society – a London emerging from the middle ages and on the brink of ‘modernity’. It is this arms-length setting that has allowed the play to speak urgently to every new generation since it was first produced 419 years ago.”
“Our production has a steely, industrial design aesthetic. It is contemporary, but not weighed down by modern references – no iPhones or handguns on stage. My particular interest is in dystopias – especially the way in which yesterday’s dystopia becomes today’s normality. Read today’s headlines. Then imagine reading those same headlines in 2015. It would be unfathomable. And yet here we are, in a new reality.”
Bell Shakespeare Executive Director Gill Perkins said that the Company is passionate about sharing Shakespeare with as many people as possible around Australia. “Our commitment to a truly national reach is stronger than ever. For more than 27 years we have presented the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the farthest parts of Australia; from Bunbury to Darwin to Launceston.”
Director: James Evans Featuring: Jemwel Danao, Ivan Donato, Maryanne Fonceca, Ghenoa Gela, Neveen Hanna, Emily Havea, Kenneth Ransom, Nick Simpson-Deeks, Russell Smith, Sara Zwangobani Designer: Anna Tregloan Lighting Designer: Verity Hampson Composer & Sound Designer: Nate Edmondson Movement & Fight Director: Scott Witt Voice Coach: Jess Chambers Assistant Director: Nasim Khosravi
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 20 – 28 July 2018
Following the Melbourne season, Julius Caesar will tour around Australia until November 2018. For more information, visit: www.bellshakespeare.com.au for details.
Image: Kenneth Ransom stars as Julius Caesar – photo by Pierre Toussaint