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Julius Caesar

By William Shakespeare

Royal Shakespeare Company

The Lowry, 2 October 2012

What’s particular about this quakesome production of the play is that it has been placed in an African context.

Or in Ethiop, as it would have been called in the Ancient World.

It’s a thrilling version, truth to tell, and I was completely captivated throughout, but it’s not clear what the setting actually adds to the play.

Of course, the African continent has had its fair share of tyrants and civil war, charismatic leaders and coups, but so too has Europe.  Puzzling premonitions and bizarre superstitions have been seen in European lands and, indeed, in Shakespeare’s works too (there is a close kinship between this play and Macbeth, in several respects).  The emphasis on the magical, life-giving qualities of newly shed blood is an Elizabethan thing an’ all: crowds would merrily quaff gallons of the stuff at public executions, taking along beakers to catch it in.  Never mind the practice of taking powdered skull as a tonic and usnea as a pick-me-up…

Anyway, this is a splendid production all around, African setting notwithstanding.

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