Ok so I took a couple note-pages of notes on this show because there were so many features and quotes I wanted to remember. It was just wonderful. Kind of tough to sit through because it was over 2 hours long without an intermission but for the most part was very compelling. It was only at the end when I was really starving and it go to all the war scenes that I was less engaged. However, the first piece I have for you is about the Soothsayer – he was a very large man completely painted white (this was an all black cast – but I’ll get to that) and had african-esque dress. He came out and danced while the cast was celebrating Caesar. A very good entrance as the dancing was very appropriate and very good. And actually when I say appropriate here, not only do I mean that it fits in, but also it was clean dancing. I didn’t like the “dirty” part of the dancing in the Winter’s Tale. It was distracting and unnecessary – grinding on stage. Anyway back to the sooth. He was a very large man and that fit for his character – sooths are supposed to be supernatural/more than just man. Later on he gives his warning from above Caesar in a very deep, low voice – the staging of this overall was wonderful (I mean where every character was in relation to another was very well thought out and contributed to the play as a whole).
Next Caesar, who remarks to the theater audience that the scene is “completely appropriate for stage” Always interesting how Shakespeare throws in references to the play being a play – it can be a drawing point that really makes you pay attention – like he is saying “here you . pay attention. I have something to say” Playwrights always have something to say and if I shall be so allowed to read into Shakespeare – I think he knew that outrightly drawing attention to a point was the best way to make a point. It’s not treating the audience as idiots, don’t get me wrong, but just understanding that being subtle sometimes just isn’t enough. If we are going to attribute 37+ plays and multiple sonnets, then I think we can attribute such knowledge as how to reach out from stage and connect to an audience (remember this is not reaching out from a page – his plays were actually only written and published after his death – I have a post coming on that too). So I could go on and on about the characters and how they were played so wonderfully by each person. Even all the supporting roles and small cast parts were done extremely well.
Other bits: the imagery of the play itself – the men who kill Caesar bathe their hands in his blood to the elbows and raise their weapons high as Brutus says they should go to the market place and cry “Peace! …. Freedom and Liberty” They view Caesar as a tyrant even though he does not come off as one in this production. I’m not sure he is supposed to at all – I don’t know the background from WS. The thing about a lot of his plays is they are loaded with references that normal audiences at his time would know so sometimes things are lost to modern day viewers. Another thing. At some point this play becomes about who speaks better – Brutus is very good, but sometimes Mark Antonius is better – they both speak well to the crowd they are addressing – unfortunately for Brutus – Mark Antonius plays him and he never sees it coming.
Ok one great quote: Danger knows that Caesar is more dangerous than he – by Caesar himself. Was very cool and very well delivered.
There is much more I could say and many of my notes not addressed but just two things more:
One: Another thing related to race/ethnicity. While the Winter’s Tale did a great job of emphasizing the culture of Nigerian Yoruba’s it decreased the power of Shakespeare while this production used the cultural aspects of African and intertwined it with the story. The Shakespearean language was kept along with the Latin names and references to Rome. These originals combined with African dress, dancing, and music (they had musicians on stage with African instruments for pieces of the show) Basically, the J.Caesar cast did a better job of showing off the best of both parts – Shakespeare’s plot and some great African dancing without overshadowing either. I was able to really appreciate what the African culture contributed to this play which is positive since I’m not one of those people who is very interested in it. When I go to museums I don’t check out the African exhibits, I don’t make a point to go to African festivals or dances – it just doesn’t hold the appeal for me that it does for others. And I’m ok with that, but this made me appreciate it a lot more and I’m glad for that.
Two: that i think the racial divide that still exists on stage should be breached – but not with plays about race! That’s the problem. King John – all white cast. J.Caesar – all black cast. When you see people come together more often than not it’s in a play that’s centered about making a difference racially or such. But I’ve always believed that is one of the problems – if we want to truly bridge the gap then we shouldn’t be doing by talking about race, but by not talking about race. I’m not saying we ignore the problems that arise from the differences or the uniqueness to different colors and cultures, but rather that we set it aside for awhile and remember when we are all humans and that that is more important. Respect of another human being should trump respecting another person of your own race for that fact alone. Only then will we be able to rise above the problems we have created by dividing ourselves and learn to live together more peacefully – in celebration of our alikeness rather than our differences. So make a theater production about something racially neutral. I know that theater is more culturally based than any other form of media – which accounts for one difference between theater and film, but I feel like if we based it on something else then it could go a long way towards a play (or a review of a play) that is focused on how the play was staged and how successful it was, how talented the actors are and what each brought to the stage – differences that contribute to a whole, better than the individuals separated, rather than reviews focused on what “the black man” brought and what “the white man” brought. Ignore it because that is not the focus of the story told on stage. If this seems too much like a rant, I’m sorry but this is how I feel about stage and our society in general. Celebrate our similarities for that is what will bring us together – without forgetting that without individuality culture would die and the society itself would lose a valuable part. (And I’m not saying theater about race is bad – on the contrary I’m a big fan of Hairspray I recommend that everyone see it – great themes and great music!).
As to the missing photos – it’s a conspiracy by the RSC I swear it. Twice now I have taken pictures inside theaters and then they have disappeared from my phone – ok yea it’s probably me, but it’s very weird and it’s more fun to assume great technological advances disallowing any photos from being taken inside the theater – Conspiracy I cry!