With its boisterous productions and 700 cheapo standing tickets, Shakespeare’s Globe is the only theatre in London that positively encourages baying mobs. And the power of the mob is something director Dominic Dromgoole taps into deftly for a ‘Julius Caesar’ that’s up there with the rowdiest things the Globe has ever staged.
Get to the theatre a while early to enjoy the havoc beforehand, as the show’s large costumed cast bawdy things up a storm, semi-improvising a celebration of the Roman feast of Lupercal as ramshackle playlets and general acts of misrule spill into the courtyard, foyer and even out of the building.
The mob supercharges the early stages of the show, as we’re swept along as the good people of Rome joyously celebrate JC’s latest victory – there’s lots of audience interaction, and a half naked Mark Antony does something weird with a stag. But it’s at the play’s pivotal point that Dromgoole’s plebiscite really comes into its own, seeding his actors throughout the Globe’s expansive, crowded space and creating a real sense of the massed people’s crude, febrile power.
As Tom McKay’s decent, scholarly Brutus and Luke Thompson’s smarmy, Blair-like Mark Antony take it in turns to deliver eulogies to the assassinated Caesar (George Irving), the impression here is not that Antony’s ‘winning’ speech is better or more passionate than Brutus’s, but that he is far more aware of the populace’s capacity for violence, and cynically taps in to their baser instincts. The magnitude of the forces he’s unleashed are underscored by a sickening lynching scene at the start of the second half that gives the current ‘Titus Andronicus’ a run for its money in the horror stakes.
Away from the crowds, Dromgoole’s taut, thriller-ish production emphasises that this is a clash of politicians, not soldiers. Thompson’s Antony is terrifically slippery and ambiguous, McKay’s tragically moral Brutus is an object lesson in the dangers of trying to do the right thing, and of the smaller parts Christopher Logan steals his scene as a waspish gossip Casca. The whole cast is good – but the mob rules.
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