The Bridge Theatre
Nicholas Hytner, Director
Ben Whishaw (Brutus), David Morrissey (Mark Antony) Michelle Fairley (Cassius), David Calder (JC)
Shakespeare Club outing to JC at the new Bridge Theatre.
RM; "It wasn't for me"
RP: "I thought that was marvellous"
RW: "They were afraid of the intimacy"
NM: "You can't carve with guns"
Well, it starts brutally with a band playing Seven Nation Army rather (perhaps not inappropriately) badly but loudly (gig-loud). This is for the benefit of the 'mob' (£15 promenade tickets) which gets frequently shifted about through the course of the evening as different parts of the stage rise and descend, and bodies or military equipment are moved in and out. The production is more or less in the round, in, you will have gathered, modern costume. The assassins have guns rather than knives (which are really not as 'intimate' as knives, and nor can they be said to 'carve'). The late war scenes are pretty well done: loud and unpleasant, with actors dashing around with guns (very Johnny 7) - but it does look nastily like a battlefield.
On the whole, I am for togas. The audience is usually clever enough to make its own comparisons, draw its own conclusions. We really don't need Trump jammed down our gullets.
I thought the thing stuttered along until the assassination, at which point the pace picked up, specifically with David Morrissey's very good Lend Me Your Ears. That sold me. Ben Whishaw is a very good actor (FR however could not drive Paddington Bear from her mind), but he perhaps lacks that stolid, almost dim gravitas that I think Brutus needs ("It was all a bit Chekov" RW remarked of his and Cassius' bivouac argument/make-up scene). Michelle Fairley (Cassius) I thought was not quite sure whether she should be pretending to be a man or not. What can be said is that I heard almost every word of this play, which is incredibly rare. Whether this is to the credit of the performers or the superdooper uptodate acoustics of the Bridge, I don't know. A bit of both, I daresay.
JC is a tricky play: one is never quite sure who it is about, and, prefiguring Psycho, the person you thought it was about gets killed in the middle. Nonetheless, I expect that with time (it hasn't actually opened yet) this production will find a rhythm that will give it both the intimacy and the cohesion it somewhat lacked this evening. I think if we average out the marks it comes in at perhaps 6/10. I'd give it a B+ myself and expect it to rise to an A- . What began questionably ended enjoyably.
Finally, a word for Leaphia Darko as Portia, who spoke her small part beautifully. I look forward to seeing more of her.