Theatre review: Julius ‘Call Me Caesar’ Caesar, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, Edinburgh

An unusual, ambitious and very enjoyable double act emerges in this new piece of writing from Belfast playwright and sometime Fringe First winner Owen McCafferty, which reimagines Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a blethering shaggy dog story told in an Irish pub to a half-interested audience of regulars, demanding that ever-more-elaborate and dramatic storytelling methods be employed.

Julius Call Me Caesar Caesar, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Venue 24)
Julius Call Me Caesar Caesar, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Venue 24)

Julius ‘Call Me Caesar’ Caesar, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, Edinburgh * * *

What makes the piece is the choice of storyteller, Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell, upon whose breathless, excitable performance style the show’s success ultimately depends.

If it all feels crammed-in, and that desperate efforts are being made to get to the end – including, at one point, rousing the baying crowd (those watching, in other words) to hail the protagonist with chants of “Caesar!” – then that’s deliberate. After all, you only get an hour to tell a story in Edinburgh, and Shakespeare won’t fit unless you get a move on, which is what Maxwell does.

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All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

He delivers the piece as though it’s a late-night stand-up set, giving each character a particular accent and set of over-exaggerated mannerisms (none of them Italian); and audience members might wish they had been a fly on the wall while Russell Bolam was directing the piece, to gauge just how much steering the two-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee needed, and how much he just ran with it.

Until 26 August (not 25)

David Pollock