Julius Caesar Must Die is a little misleading, as initially it appears to be an absurdist original dramatisation of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Although, despite only being ‘based’ on William Shakespeare’s play, it is pretty much a shortened version of the Bard’s Julius Caesar.
As the senators plan to give Julius Caesar (Nathan Young) the keys to Rome, a group of conspirators led by Cassius (James Hay) and Brutus (Alisdair Halkett) plot to make sure that the spirit of the republic is protected.
Because the play is essentially an overview, there are a lot of gaps that we have to fill in for ourselves. Some scenes feel very rushed and repetitive as the focus on the conspirators means that we’re constantly seeing some form of the same argument being hashed out, namely Cassius convincing Brutus to join the plot and expressions of Brutus’ reluctance, over and over again. I understand trying to remain in the spirit of Shakespeare’s play, but the combination of the lack of time and decision to show the entirety of events surrounding the Ides of March means that we’re left with an incredibly brief overview. This lack of depth and hurried pace means that there just isn’t time to explore any themes that are introduced, and that there isn’t any real time for significant character development, making them all rather-one dimensional.
Felicity Anderson-Moore’s costume design is visually stunning in its uniformity, giving us pause for thought. Through it she shows the different loyalties and camps that are drawn up, so we spend a significant amount of time trying to figure out what each character's costume says about them. We probably learn more about the characters through their costumes than anything that is said onstage. The costumes themselves are reminiscent of French revolutionaries, with the berets and ribbons forming an ‘X’ across the chest, and each character has a different colour that denotes their position and loyalties. Edoardo Berto’s movement sequences within the play are hypnotising and visually satisfying. He presents more stylised battle and fight sequences that give more clarity to otherwise chaotic events.
There is a lot of gravity in the cast’s performance, which show an impressive understanding not only of the play, but of the history behind it and its consequences. Halkett admirably tries to convey Brutus’ internal conflict over the course of the play, which does evoke some sympathy for the character.
This adaptation is a very aesthetically interesting, especially in the stylistic aspects of its movement and costume design. It’s slightly hampered by the fact that the techno and coloured lights from the start set a different tone to the one that Julius Caesar Must Die ends up taking.