REVIEW: Julius Caesar

Running at the new studio in Centrepointe Theatre, the Ottawa Shakespeare Company makes full use of technology to enhance their production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Should you see it?

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise… actually, yeah, praise.
Julius Caesar, produced by the Ottawa Shakespeare Company

Mac Fyfe’s Brutus kneels before Eugene Clark’s Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar, produced by the Ottawa Shakespeare Company and presented at the new Centrepointe Studio is some powerful theatre. It says something when the house lights came on to mark intermission and the audience was riveted to their seats and nobody moved for what seemed like minutes. (Really, it was probably only 20 seconds, but that’s almost forever in audience time.)

Quickly, for those not in the know, Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare, is the story of the would be Roman Emperor, his assassination on the eve of his coronation, and the aftermath. If you ain’t familiar with the historical Julius Caesar, well, for shame. Read up.

Caesar himself is played by Eugene Clark. He’s in from Toronto where some will know him as Mufasa in the Lion King and others will know him as Big Daddy in Land of the Dead. I know him as a commanding would-be emperor with some great lines. It’s Caesar’s grand speechifying paired with the wonderful power and force of personality behind Brad Long’s superstar performance as Marc Anthony, that stunned the house closing out that first act. (I’ve now seen Brad Long in the last four Shakespeare plays I’ve attended, but with his role here, he’s jumped on to my shortlist of favourite local actors.)

Julius Caesar, produced by the Ottawa Shakespeare Company

Cassius and Brutus conpsire.

On the other side of the power struggle is Michael Mancini as Cassius, the man largely responsible for corrupting Mac Fyfe’s Brutus. Both deliver superior portrayals and have great speeches of their own. And the rest of the cast, who also all join the chorus (and are participant wranglers) in addition to their named roles all come through.

The other half of what makes this production of Julius Caesar noteworthy is its presentation and direction. First, it’s been moved into a contemporary context and political arena — starting with a mock CNN broadcast to kick off the show and complete with secret police and costume consisting of full suit and tie and flak vests.

Julius Caesar, produced by the Ottawa Shakespeare Company

A soothsayer tries to warn Caesar.

Second, the OSC has really tried to push the envelope on making use of technology and the state of the art space they’re in to enhance the show with some wonderful back projections, impressive sound design, and use of Microsoft’s motion capture kinect technology to interesting effect. It wasn’t perfect – the fog machines are a bit noisy and distracting, the kinect didn’t always work as intended, and they had a bit of trouble getting the riser in and out through the same-sized door frame – but the flaws were all minor and really it’s kudos to the company for experimenting and pushing the envelope to create a wonderful experience.

This is all saying nothing for the audience participation portion of the show with audience members getting to experience the show from on stage with the actors. I’ll leave Reena to talk about that since she was in the thick of it.

While our neighbours to the south play out their own political theatre, make this yours. Especially with the first 100 tickets from each night going for only $10, this is the first show I’m calling must see this year.

What did you think? What was your favourite moment in the play? Did you enjoy the OSC’s use of technology? Join the discussion in the comments below.

Photos in this article taken for Production Ottawa by Allan Mackey.

Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

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