Predictably, Hull Truck dispenses with tradition for this pulsating performance
of one of Shakespeare's most ambitious plays. The differences between Godber's version
and Shakespeare's are glaring - an original cast of 51 is slashed to just 6 actors
(although most of them play multiple roles), the number of conspirators in Caesar's
murder is cut from 8 to 4, and the whole thing is downsized from a chunky
2-and-a-half-hours-plus to a healthy 100 minutes or so.
Though the language of the script is not modernized, the costumes are.
Gone are the togas and robes, replaced by modern tailored suits, a transition which works
This and the sparse Bristolian trip-hop soundtrack are the most obvious
suggestions that this is Shakespeare, Hull Truck style.
Godber doesn't press the point that he has updated the setting of the play -
and he doesn't need to. It isn't made clear exactly what era this production of Caesar
is set in - we know that it is modern but it scarcely matters anyway, since the play
transcends time in an almost eerie manner. Think on this excerpt, if you will:
How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!
It is astonishing to think that Shakespeare wrote those prophetic lines so many
centuries ago. John Godber's own programme notes allude to the parallels
between the Brutus/Caesar relationship and that of Brown/Blair and Rumsfeld/B*sh.
The historical truths behind Shakespeare's play, it seems, are genuinely timeless.
And so to the production itself..
I'm not given to sycophancy. I am not given to labelling plays, albums, bands or books as great, if they are anything but, which most are. This astounding production, however, is truly great, and there is no other way to describe it. The direction is faultless and sometimes risky, most notably in Godber's decision to introduce a prologue which flashes forward to Brutus's death, a prologue absent from Shakespeare's original. Godber needn't worry - it works brilliantly.
This scene, like the rest of the play, is presented in a portentous half-light, which only adds
to the ever-present sense of impending doom. Indeed in places the play has all
the properties of a gothic horror, and the dark mood is unrelenting throughout,
reaching a crescendo in the final scenes when Brutus and Cassius (played by the
brilliant Rory MacGregor, of Spooks fame) meet Marc Anthony and Octavius on the battlefield.
The play's finale is captivating, with the desperate Brutus, played by former The Bill regular Rob Hudson, delivering a searing monologue to the audience, bloodied and beaten, clutching a dagger in one hand and a battered standard in the other. His delivery of Shakespeare's lines is astonishing. You could - literally - have heard a pin drop in the audience.
After the last two major productions at Hull Truck - Up N Under and Confessions Of A City
Supporter - both excellent, yet both comedies, and both set in a sporting context -
it was interesting to see what Godber and Co would come up with for something as contrasting
as a Shakespeare play. The results are above and beyond expectation Godber's Julius Caesar
sets a benchmark which will be difficult to match - if I were inclined towards anything so frivolous
as awarding marks out of ten, Julius Caesar would be an eleven.
If Hull Truck can maintain this standard then one can only wait with bated breath for their next production.
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Tom, like his ex-wife Nicole Kidman, never seems to stop working
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For some time now thisisUll.com has been bringing news
and reviews of events that are happening in Hull.
It is quite noticeable that what is going unreported is what's happening in the near-by towns
surrounding the city of Hull.