This Royal Shakespeare Company production of Julius Caesar transports the drama to Africa, in an attempt to emphasise the tribal and fractious nature of the play.
The action opens before the play begins, with a small band playing traditional African music as the tribunes (and the audience) gather and socialise, and they return at several points during the show to reinforce the shift in continents.
I’m not convinced the transplant fully works – the set resembled more a cross between an ampitheatre and an Iraqi football stadium in the days of Saddam Hussein than an African township – but the acting transcended it.
Paterson Joseph was stunning as Brutus, carving a strong persona and dealing beautifully with the embedded humour in the piece. He was equalled by Cyril Nri’s Cassius, especially as the twists of betrayal forced him into paranoia towards the end.
Ray Fearon powerfully delivered some of Shakespeare’s best oratory as Mark Antony, reminding us of the soaring potential of words in the hands of skilled speakers: worlds can be won and lost.
Even relatively small parts like those of Lucius and Portia are neatly drawn by Simon Manyonda and Adjoa Andoh respectively.
This is a tremendously acted production and it is that, rather than the conceit or the (admittedly skilful) musical accompaniment that really makes it shine.