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WEEKEND TV: Julius Cæsar [BBC4, Sunday 24th, 8pm]

Posted by Michael Moran
Michael Moran
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on Saturday, 16 June 2012

We all know a little bit of Shakespeare. The plays of the world’s most famous Brummie supply practically every well-known English saying that didn’t come from their near-contemporary the King James Bible.

The plays, especially the histories, are quite often updated in production to emphasise their timeless relevance. That’s what the Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director Gregory Doran has done with Julius Cæsar.



Set in a turbulent, post-colonial African republic it hints at connections to conflics from Angola to Zimbabe - and even perhaps the Arab Spring. The new setting of course reminds us that the Roman Empire was, like our society a multicultural affair. Indeed Septimus Severus, Rome’s famous African emperor, died in York.

Probably the most recognisable face in the all-black cast is Paterson Joseph, known to me and I suspect quite a few others as ‘that guy from Peep Show’. He's known to the citizens of Shakespeare's Rome as Brutus. Caesar is played by Jeffery Kisson, Mark Antony by Ray Fearon and Cyril Nri gives us his Cassius.



It’s not an altogether flawless presentation. Some of the larger scenes are clearly filmed on a stage while most of the play is shot on location. The effect is a little jarring, especially in terms of the contrasting sound quality.

Nevertheless it’s a topical, reinvigorated take on a play that has thrilled audiences for some 400 years. How many ages hence shall this this lofty scene be acted o'er, in states unborn, and accents yet unknown?


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