Of the two offerings of
This show is bursting with potential and, with a rebalancing to better accommodate their target audience, could be even better.
The six-strong male cast do an admirable attempt at creating a version of Julius Caesar for children. All six definitely display the right sort of energy and enthusiasm for the job. Maanuv Thiara particularly stands out for his role as a news anchor linking various events of the play together in a digestible manner for the young audience. Dylan David Wood as Cassius also shines, particularly for his part in fuelling audience participation. Audience participation is just one of many good concepts used by the play – the numerous conspirators stabbing Caesar are made up by members of the audience using cue cards. The problem is that too many concepts are crammed into this show at once and thus all are used sparingly at best.
This ultimately creates a feeling of indecision about the play. Do we keep the original language or do we rewrite the whole thing? A middle path is chosen, but it ends up feeling like two different productions. On the one hand, we have the new text which feels like part of a good children’s show, combined with music, choreography and inherent humour. On the other, we keep on having this good children’s show interrupted by some fairly humdrum amateur Shakespeare. It seems like a bizarre criticism to make, but being more selective with the Shakespearean text used would have benefitted the production enormously. Some sections of Shakespearean text are relentlessly long and not delivered with the same poise or assuredness as the modern sections in between. For instance, the aftermath of Caesar’s death between Antony and the conspirators lacks tension or purpose from the perspective of a child; too much is unsaid and made too subtle for the young audience. Because of this, some of these scenes end up alienating the actual target audience of the show: children. Having had wonderful audience interaction with kids playing the conspirators, the end of the play and build-up to Philippi seems to revert to standard Shakespeare and the show forgets who it is meant to be for.
It must be said that there are many positive aspects to enjoy. The choreography and use of music is a delight to experience and easy for the younger members of the audience to appreciate. The modern day setting and use of news broadcasts is an excellent decision and pays off in many ways, such as the choice to set Caesar’s funeral scene on a prime-time talk show and Mark Antony’s amusing phone-calls to keep Octavian in the loop. It’s thoroughly enjoyable for adults; perhaps just more so than for children. This show is bursting with potential and, with a rebalancing to better accommodate their target audience, could be even better.