Theatre review: Julius Caesar, Glasgow

IT’S SHORT, it’s spare, it’s presented by just four actors in simple business suits, with a minimum of staging.

Julius Caesar - Kibble Palace, Glasgow

* * * * *

Yet this version of Julius Caesar for the Bard in the Botanics season, staged in the elegant indoor space of the Kibble Palace, is an astonishingly powerful account of this great play, in which the sharp lines of the drama emerge unscathed from director Jennifer Dick’s radical adaptation, and are delivered to the audience with a thrilling, visceral force.

From the first moment of the drama – with Nicole Cooper’s furious Cassius, or Cassia, chiding the foolish plebeians for their idolatry of Caesar – the verse is spoken with a dynamic political understanding that makes the words rage and sing, as they drive us through the story of a political murder committed for the best of motives, but still too bloody and violent an act not to unleash mayhem and revenge.

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Paul Cunningham is a tense, thoughtful Brutus, Tim Barrow a stately but visibly vulnerable Caesar; and Kirk Bage is an unforgettable Mark Antony, a vain but gifted man raised to terrific powers of rhetoric by his fury over Caesar’s death.

Just occasionally, the doubling and trebling of minor roles becomes a shade confusing. In its greatest moments, though, this production achieves a spine-tingling pitch of intensity, horror and exhilaration. The current artistic director, Gordon Barr, has spent more than half a decade building up a Bard in the Botanics ensemble with a record in performing Shakespeare that no other Scottish company can match; and the sheer focus and quality of this outstanding production is a tribute to the immense skill and understanding they have achieved, through good summers and bad, since the season first began in 2001.