Reviewed by Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson
Wednesday, 15 October
of the symbols of recently gentrified Peckham is the restored Bussey Building. At
the end of a sepulchral warren within a courtyard adorned with modernist and
surreal supersized wall art - underneath the tracks of Peckham Rye Train
Station - the now renamed venue is home to the CLF Art Cafe. Set over several floors the
bar and theatre is reached by ascending the once grimy but now
the rather gritty surroundings, the sparsely furnished bar is surprisingly cosy
and warm. D’Angelo’s classic 2000 album Voodoo
plays the night this writer visited, and the low-fi, dirty production of that
classic suite perfectly fits this environment.
the same for 11:11 Productions depiction
of Shakespeare’s political thriller Julius
Caesar. It is austere; there are no frills at all and even the programme is
a scrap of paper. Neither modernised nor updated for a contemporary world,
Director Sam Wood, marshals his 11 person cast to focus strictly on this
Shakespearean rendition. And the only concession seems to be the male cast
wearing Arabic dishdasha robes.
better for that though as jealousy, resentment, political intrigue, civil war
and conflict infuse the play’s rich dialogue - which enhances the drama. The
story is this; Julius Caesar has returned to Rome triumphant from another
successful military campaign. The political establishment is prepared to award
him even more honours, which breeds resentment among his colleagues who fear his
by the resentment of co-conspirators Cassius and Brutus - whose festering
jealousy goes against the acclaim for the eponymous hero, Caesar’s rivals
convince themselves that the Emperor’s elimination is necessary for the good of
the republic. Events then inevitably
overtake their flawed intentions – to a bloody and murderous denouement –
including several suicides and an ISIS-style headchopping scene.
above floor level on a stage made of industrial palates the violent narrative unfolds at a fast
but well-calibrated pace. Luca Romagnoli’s soundscape and lighting has singing
and music competing with thunder, rain and lightning - which mirror the
maelstrom underway on the compact stage. It was too hot in there though and -
at times - I was falling asleep; through either my own somnambulance, the heat
or the [only sometimes] soporific nature of a marathon performance which
requires concentration – maybe a combination of all three.
mostly consistent performances are committed and enthralling. [But did Caesar
stutter and forget his lines after 40 minutes?]. All the now famous phrases are delivered
persuasively by performers who own them with lucid and authoritative enunciation:
“Beware the Ides of March”, “let slip the dogs of war”, “friends Romans
countrymen I did not come to praise Caesar but to bury him”.
in height, Matthew Eades stands out as regal and majestic in the title role; as
does Vangelis Christodoulou’s conniving Brutus;
Adam Elms’ Cassius finds his range
and catches the rhythm of the writing quickly; and the strong voice and good
diction of a persuasive Matthew
Crowley gives Marc Anthony credibility.
Although the drama is shot through with political machismo, both Charlotte
Gascoyne's Calphyurnia and Jane
Walters Portia are powerful.
does not want for Shakespeare productions. In that sense then at over two
uninterrupted hours the performance is possibly too long for this venue. All
the same, this thorough and muscular edition - despite needing some pruning - is
expertly overseen by Best Director Award nominee Samuel Wood, and definitely
merits a bigger audience than was present on the night this reviewer attended.
Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is
The New Black Magazine's arts editor and a London-based freelance journalist.
11:11 Productions of
William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,
Directed by Simon Wood
The CLF Art Cafe AKA The Bussey Building
Until 25th October