Sturua’s Julius Caesar sees the action of the play transferred from Ancient Rome to gangster-era America, with the senators dressed in suits and fedoras and Caesar reimagined as a kind of mafia boss. The set, however, is neither true to this era nor to Ancient Rome; instead, it combines elements from different eras and styles, creating an unidentifiable setting for the play. The intended effect is slightly unclear, but the actors make good use of the set, which does not detract from the production. The music, as well, is anachronistic, some of it coming from later in the 20th century than the gangster movies Sturua seems to be pastiching. With so many elements in conflict, the play sometimes feels like there is too much going on, but at other times these elements come together to humorous or dramatic effect.
One thing that could undoubtedly have improved this performance was being longer: cutting it down to less than two hours means that much of the text has been dispensed with. The plot is still relatively easy to follow, even for those who have no previous knowledge of the play, but it would be good to see a deeper exploration of the plot and characters. Act One, for example, is dispensed with in five minutes – this doesn’t matter too much, because it is not that important to the plot being focused on, but we could do with more than one scene showing Caesar abusing his power as a leader. As it stands, it is a little difficult to understand Brutus and Cassius’ anger towards him, as he seems more like a loveable tyrant than the man who endangers the future of Rome.
The pacing of scenes is somewhat skewed: for such a fast-moving production, many of the scenes are incredibly drawn out – sometimes this works well, giving us time to absorb what is occurring onstage, but at other times the prolonged suspense becomes boring. These slow scenes are also often interrupted by light flashes or bursts of noise – again, sometimes this works well, but it becomes annoying when overused. The best moments come when Loria’s character, who is a kind of master of ceremonies-cum-narrator who also plays some small parts in the play, breaks out of the character he is currently playing to share a joke with the audience – in such an anachronistic production, metatheatrical elements like this don’t feel out of place, and instead work well.
In such an emotionally-driven play, acting is of paramount importance, and while Uplisashvili, Sanguri and Khurtsia (Caesar, Brutus and Cassius) are good, some of the supporting acting is weak. However, the shallow characterisation present throughout the play can also be blamed for this, as neither we nor the actors are really given enough material to work with. The best performance by far comes from Loria, whose narration provides humour as well as insight into the play. Although there are many promising elements in this production, others feel too out of place to really accomplish anything, while the cuts made to the script make the first half far too rushed – even though the finale is well done, it lacks impact because the preceding scenes have prevented us from forming an emotional connection to the characters.
- By William Shakespeare
- Directed by Robert Sturua
- Translated by Robert Sturua and Nino Kantidze
- Cast -Nino Arsenishvili, Zaza Baratashvili, Ivane Gogitidze, Paata Guliashvili, Beso Zanguri, Andria Tavberidze, Zura Ingorokva, Kakha Kupatadze, Mamuka Loria, Keti Svanidze, Gagi Svanidze, Beka Songulashvili, Davit Uplisashvili, Zura Sharia, Gega Chkaidze, Levan Khurtsia, Lasha Jukharashvili
- Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, Gdańsk, Poland
- Review by Nicola Watkinson
- 9 August 2015