Thursday, September 28

Julius Caesar – The Lowry

‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen; lend me your ears!’

Julius Caesar contains some of William Shakespeare’s most quoted lines, and in fact this play begins with Caesar celebrating the height of his power and influence and being faced with a stark warning to ‘Beware the Ides of March’. What follows is a dramatic exposition of the struggles of power, that is equally relevant today in 2023 as it was when it was published in 1599. This play calls on us to consider whether our actions can be justified on the basis of their goal, and whether it is a right or a duty to speak truth to those in authority.

The design of the production (Rosanna Vize) is for the most part outstanding. The creeping introduction of colour into a monochrome space was really powerful, and really made me think; why is it that life holds no colour for these individuals? I loved the lighting (Lee Curran), and the definition that it gave to the story and the space, even creeping out into the audience at times. The soundscape (Claire Windsor) was fascinating, and brilliantly put together; and I liked the use of a small live band alongside preproduced sound and some modern touches – no spoilers here! For me, the projections used were either astoundingly apt and therefore drew me in to the story, or slightly obscure and therefore pushed me away. I struggled with a couple of other elements too: I had hoped for more from the community chorus; the frequent appearance of stage crew was rather distracting, and some of the movement sections were a little baffling to me and got in the way of the production rather than enhancing it. That said, I thought all the elements of the design worked well together overall to enhance the story unfolding on stage.

The story needs no compliment. Performed here by an excellent company of actors, and directed by Atri Banerjee, the action moves quickly. I love the inclusivity of the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which does not discriminate on the basis of regional accents or physical disability/ability. I think it is brilliant to see sign language integrated into a production. However, there were moments where the clarity of diction was lost in characters’ moments of high stress or over exuberance, which for me is a problem when you’re trying to keep up with Shakespeare’s original language.

Across the talented company, there were a couple of people who deserve a particular mention. Niamh Finlay had the audience and the cast enraptured by her performance as the Soothsayer, so much so that she even garnered some audience participation!

Thalissa Teixeira and Annabel Baldwin (they/them) as Brutus and Cassius, respectively, were astounding. Individually they both have such stage presence, and when they shared scenes together there were moments that were breathtaking. They caught the essence of such a wide range of emotions throughout the piece, I could have watched them for hours!

The decision to use female pronouns for these characters, while retaining Shakespeare’s original references to ‘man’ and ‘men’ was initially a bit jarring, but quickly forgotten; instead asking interesting questions about the gender of power and our expectations of leadership.

I’m not sure I would consider this production to be entry-level Shakespeare, but with the expected high quality of the Royal Shakespeare Company delivered in spades, this is one well worth watching if you’re a fan of the Bard.

This production continues in the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, Salford, until Saturday 24th June. There is a post-show talk on Friday 23rd June. Information about accessible performances (Captions, BSL, audio-described) and trigger warnings, along with ticket links, can be found here: This is the last stop on the current tour of Julius Caesar, but for more information about the production and other work by the Royal Shakespeare Company, click here:

Reviewer: Jo Tillotson

Reviewed: 20th June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.