Jennifer Lines as Antony. Photo Tim MathesonBard on the Beach
Julius Caesar
by William Shakespeare, adapted by Stephen Drover

When & Where June 15 – September 24, 2023, evenings at 7.30, Sundays at 2pm | BMO Mainstage, Vanier Park

Director Cherissa Richards Costume Designer Jessica Oostergo Set Designer Pam Johnson Sound Designer Kate De Lorme Lighting Designer Gerald King Choreographer/Fight Director Jonathan Hawley Purvis Video Designer Candalario Andrade Production Stage Manager Joanne P.B. Smith

Cast: Antony Jennifer Lines Brutus Andrew McNee Caesar Andrew Wheeler Calphurnia Sharon Crandall Octavius Oscar Derkx Portia Chelsea Rose
Casca Olivia Hutt Cassius Emma Slipp Cinna Naomi Ngebulana Decius Ben Elliott Metellus Matthew MacDonald-Bain Trebonius Alexandra Lainfiesta
Soothsayer Scott Bellis Lucius Evan Rein Cinna the Poet Henry Beasley
Citizens, Soldiers The company

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Fast paced and vivid, Bard on the Beach's Julius Caesar will have you on the edge of your seat, swept into a world of violent politics, plots, treachery and war.

Smart directing from Cherissa Richards, crisp and clever editing by Stephen Drover and shrewdly chosen projections (Candelario Andrade) fashion a taut and immediately modern scenario. Gone are the discontented and easily moved citizens of Rome and in their place are news clips of contemporary demonstrations. Trouble in the streets of Rome becomes immediately familiar. So, too, the political situation: Julius Caesar is the charismatic leader who may be about to abuse his power. What actions should or should not be taken are explored in the first half of the play; the second half demonstrates the consequences.

Andrew Wheeler's Caesar exudes confident power spot-lit by self-deprecating modesty, all iron fist in a velvet glove. His wife, Calphurnia, the elegant Sharon Crandall, cannot convince him to be circumspect at the expense of his self-esteem; nor can the Soothsayer, a deeply serious and fairly terrifying Scott Bellis.

Appalled by Caesar’s ambition, anguished at the thought of violent action, Brutus must make a moral choice. Andrew McNee is unsettled and jittery but no match for the aggrieved Cassius. Emma Slipp inhabits Cassius like a tornado. Pent-up rage energises her as she recruits co-conspirators, distributes fake news, and details the assassination plans. Her utter dedication to her cause and her underlying military professionalism come to the fore in a well-constructed character arc as the two sides prepare for battle. McNee, too, gains strength to equal hers with the result that their fight for control is powerful and compelling. His relationship with young Lucius is carefully built from the beginning to a shocking conclusion.

Fights by Jonathan Hawley Purvis, so immediate they might have come off today's news screens, and an ominous soundscape by Kate De Lorme underline and enforce mood and action. Pam Johnson's set is abstract and convincingly both hyper-modern (Caesar's golden dressing-room all set about with self-portraits is to die for) and classically referenced with fluted columns and Latin tags. Elegant lines and contemporary uniforms characterize Jessica Oostergo's costumes.

This is clear and intelligible Shakespeare, persuasive, manipulative, emotional, disturbing and exciting, a thriller as much for our times as any Elizabethan's.

© 2023 Elizabeth Paterson