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Monday, April 8, 2013

In Context: Julius Caesar

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar opens this Wednesday, April 10, and runs until April 28. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought in the comments.

On the Blog

Community Chorus Diaries, Volume 1
Read profiles of the New Yorkers who make up the Roman public in Julius Caesar. 

Foto Friday: The Soothsayer
Julius Caesar's Theo Ogundipe gets covered in clay before the show.

“Julius Caesar: The Bard with More Bounce”
Read up on the context for Gregory Doran’s Julius Caesar.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and BAM: A Brief History
The RSC has been invigorating the Shakespearian canon at BAM for over 40 years.

Around the Web

Behind Julius Caesar (YouTube)
Director Gregory Doran and cast members discuss Shakespeare’s “African play,” its resonances with the Arab Spring, and more.

Nelson Mandela and Julius Caesar (
The former South African leader was allowed one thing to read while in prison. His choice? The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and in particular, Julius Caesar. 

Head-to-Head: Man of Honor vs. Man of Action (
The actors behind Brutus and Marc Antony compare notes on their characters.

“The Vibes of March” (
Preview Akintayo Akinbode’s original music, performed live onstage during Julius Caesar.

“Power and Glory: How to Tackle Shakespeare’s Revolutions” (The Guardian)
Director Gregory Doran ruminates on the relevance of Julius Caesar to recent African political history.

Video: Julius Caesar on the BBC (The Guardian)
“He doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus:” watch a clip from the BBC’s televised version of Gregory Doran’s production.

Worthwhile Words

Director Gregory Doran on Julius Caesar:

"Our production does not seek to address the problems of Africa, or offer solutions—merely to allow Shakespeare's genius for human and political insight to be seen more freshly. Anyway, Shakespeare does not provide answers: he only asks questions. In Julius Caesar, as elsewhere, he's careful not to come down on any one side. He submerges us in the centre of the story; like the crowd in the forum listening to Mark Antony, we are swayed by each competing argument. Is Brutus a hero of the Republic, or the ultimate self-deceiving idealist? You decide."

Now Your Turn . . .

So what's your verdict? Once you've seen the show, tell us what you thought about the music or anything else that might be on your mind in the comments below.


  1. This is my second visit to the Harvey Theater (Richard III and Julius Caesar). Richard III production was brilliant. Current production also very impressive though accents of actors made it more difficult to understand. Glad to have attended. My most serious criticism is the seating in the Harvey balcony. The seats are poorly cushioned and very uncomfortable. The discomfort wears on you with time. My family reluctantly has decided not to attend any more productions at the Harvey until the balcony seating problem is corrected.

  2. I agree with every point. Left at intermission because of sound problems and discomfort. A Shakespeare student (Stratford-upon-Avon) this was a big disappointment. The donning of black "hoodies" was particularly disappointing. There was no classical geist in this production.

  3. JC was an interesting production which had its highs and lows. The theater space offers only lows. The acoustics in the Harvey (the echo, esp in the louder scenes) made it impossible to hear more than 1/2 the dialogue. Seats in Gallery are very uncomfortable, though providing leg room. Lobby traffic flow awkward and poorly marked access points to seating areas is among the worst of any theater I can recall attending in and around NY. Not high on my list of theater facilities to revisit.

  4. I enjoyed the production. It helped that I had re-read the play just before the performance. During acts I-III, the sound was better although it was hard to hear Cassius. Either the actors or the sound were not as clear in the second part. I have been to other performances at the Harvey where the sound hasn't been a problem. For me the issue wasn't the accents. Nevertheless I loved the setting of the play. I felt it gave it freshness and a new perspective. Mark Anthony, Portia and Calpurnia were particularly good.

  5. The conception and the energy of the production and the performances were terrific. Like the others who've written here, I too had trouble with the sound and understanding what the actors were saying. I lost more than half in the second act. The actors should have been made more aware of problems with enunciation and accent for us ferners. Acoustics too?

  6. An effective restaging of the Shakespeare classic in an African mode with particularly captivating music and dance, albeit without any alteration of interpretation in the move from Rome to Africa. Upper Orchestra Row N was very comfortable and roomy with good visibility. Intense and energetic acting, but the combination of rapid speech by the two leads and suboptimal acoustics (despite infrared listening devices) did make for too much missed dialogue.

  7. I thought this was a brilliant production of Julius Caesar, and I now can't imagine it being done any other way. So timely. The actors were incredible. However I agree with some of the other comments about the theatre - sub-optimal. Particularly the huge pillar obstructing my view -- pity I still paid a lot of money for the seat. Please fix this.

  8. Excellent performances throughout and the music wAs an added plus for sure, but I wish I'd known that the musicians would be playing for some time before curtain; I would've taken my seat even earlier.

    I think the performance space is lovely ... And very convenient to the subway. If you mistakenly head to the wrong BAM building there are even staffers outside to point you in the right direction.

    I highly recommend Row N. Nobody sitting in front of you. Excellent views, comfortable seats. I thought that my missing some of the dialogue was due to my not brushing up on the piece beforehand but having read the above comments, I wonder if it was partly the acoustics? Still, well worth seeing!

  9. The acting and facial expressions were superb but the dialogue difficult to understand (and we were in the fifth row) surprising for an English Company. First half much more engaging than second.

    1. Compelling, well acted production. Agree with other comments that either the acoustics are bad, especially for those in the upper part of the house (row R for me) or the actors are not playing to the entire house. I missed more than half the dialogue with the exception of Mark Antony and Portia . it took real work understand the lines of many of the others. That said, it was thrilling to watch and an interesting interpretation.

  10. Horrible. Left at the end of Act 3. Worst Julius Caesar I've ever seen. Shame on the RSC. I should have known better after their passé theater for self-satisfied bourgeois masses at the Park Avenue Armory a couple seasons ago. In this productions, actors were screaming their lungs out and very visibly ACTING; most of all the Caesar. I've never been so happy to see Caesar die: the end of his vacuous and pompous declamation.

    There was no nuance and many actors did not even know how to walk a stage! Also, Mark Anthony was very disappointing. He played the role anticipating the end of the play. His eulogy for Caesar was flat. All the "and Brutus is an honorable man" were like rocks sinking in water. This Mark Anthony was victorious since he appeared on stage. All signs of political intelligence and inner thinking through words, gone.

    Compare this Julius Caesar to the Roman tragedies at BAM a few months ago... now, that was an inspired Caesar with a clear directorial point of view.

  11. Play was ruined because we couldn't hear/ understand what was being said. Seems like it was a mixture of bad acoustics, especially for the gallery, and the accents they put on which I thought were unnecessary.

  12. I concur with all the above criticism, the acoustics was bad, done in an african dialect, was horrible, i love The HARVRY center, but they need to work on the sound, and stop selling partial ochestra seats, a lot of people didn't show up, the ushers could have at least, came to the ones with obstructed views, be offerred another seat. I hope management consider, all these comments, and make it better.