Brutus the Bland

Posted: 04/21/2005 in Daily Grumbling

I am right royally pissed off. I feel that Alex and I have been mugged for over a hundred dollars and 2 1/2 hours of our precious time. I must vent otherwise I will not sleep a wink and develop an ulcer.

I convinced Alex to come see Julius Caesar with me. Denzel Washington playing Brutus, a contemporary setting – though I thought it was going to be political instead of militaristic – and a promise that he could play has much Halo as he wants for the rest of the month. Sold. First off, I was excited to be seeing a Shakespeare play that I am unfamiliar with and given my obsession with all things classical this was going to be a real treat. Secondly, I was impressed with the demographic of the audience, anything that brings people to the theatre and introduces them to Shakespeare is a good thing.

It stunk. A certain, two-time Oscar winner, gabbled through his lines so quick that they made no sense (yes, he was speaking nonsense) and made no effect to act (sweetie, if you think you were bored you should of looked at me in the balcony). There was no delivery, no nuances, no punctuation, no presence, he gave us nothing. Bizarrely, when he wasn’t on stage the other actors performed better and delivered their speeches with clarity and, to a certain extent, feeling. He appeared to have a weird inverse affect on the people around him. Brutus is a complex character, but I felt that at no point did we ever feel that he was an honorable man who had been manipulated. He appeared to accept the idea of murdering Casaer (played by William Sadler) like you would decide to nip to the pub for a swift half (you’ve twisted my arm, just a quick one). Where was the loyalty that was so prevalent in Roman society?

There were a few scenes that were good, not brilliant or outstanding but good in a mediocre grading on a curve type of way. I liked the brief interaction between Casaer and his wife (Tumara Tunie as Calpurnia), as she tried to warn him not to go to the senate. Eamonn Walker, gave a very fine performance as Mark Antony but I got the impression he was holding back, and ditto for Colm Feore as Cassius. But the real high light was during the interval, when I lighten our mood by telling the joke from the Carry On film… “Infamy. Infamy. They have all got it in for me”.

I’ll be honest, this is a sorry excuse for a production. Maybe they didn’t care because people would pay to see Washington read the phone book, so why bother? But, it saddens me that a play that is predominately about spin and politics, so very relevant today could be deflated and abysmally mishandled.

  1. Alex says:

    You mean the ‘Julius Caesar on Stopwatch’? Let seem how many sentances we can fit into a two and half hour play… Or, ‘Julius Caesar Recital’?

  2. GOL says:

    Long, loooong ago, when I was a girl (60’s) – the Beeb did a series of W.S. called An Age of Kings (the history plays) closely followed by ‘A Pride of Eagles’ the Roman/Greeky ones. The leads (and rest of cast) were played by everybody who ever became somebody in Brit. theatre (Robert Hardy was a brilliant Corialanus) and they were young, passionate talented and hungry for the chance – even in such a shoe-string production. Sets were minimal and I doubt if they had more than two camera angles – but it was a total mindblast and only a stone would have been unmoved by the vitality and power of delivery – and NOTHING I have seen since ccould lick its boots. WS is not boring but SOME productions are so bent out of shape by misguided directional foibles or crap casting that there should be a jail-senstence for anyone who sends audiances home making polite ‘pigeon’ noises or rueing the price of the ticket…I think I will stop here……

  3. Daisy says:

    Sorry to hear it was so bad but it’s a great piece of writing.

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