Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
By William Shakespeare. Director: Fleur Kilpatrick. Assistant Director: Joey Burford. Sound Designer: Justin Gardam. Dramaturge: Claire Macallister. Essential Theatre. Space 338. Melbourne Fringe Festival. September 20 – 29, 2016.

It’s easy for independent theatre companies to do Shakespeare badly.

In my 22 years as a reviewer, I've seen many modern takes on Shakespeare’s classics. Too often, these fail to deliver.

But with 16 years of experience behind them – including touring their ‘Shakespeare in the Vines’ program – you’d expect Essential Theatre to be up for the challenge.

For their version of Julius Caesar, they stayed faithful to Shakespeare’s text (editing it for length) but they flipped the gender roles, making the characters belong to a power-hungry matriarchal society.

Why? For every four male parts in Shakespeare's plays, women only have a choice of one role.

Essential Theatre chose Julius Caesar for two reasons. The story is not dependent on gender. And it’s not a romance.

It's simply a play about power featuring compelling writing about freedom, leadership, and destiny.

Overall, the cast delivered Shakespeare the way it should be delivered: in addition to the dialogue, the actors used body language and tone to guide the audience in understanding and then responding to Shakespeare’s words.

Alex Aldrich’s costumes are unforgettable. Think Nazi Germany meets Hollywood Glam. The sharp lines of the costumes complemented the sharp dialogue.

While Shakespeare is hard to get right, Essential Theatre succeeded.

Daniel G. Taylor

Image - from L-R - Fleur Kilpatrick, Amanda LaBonte and Sophie Lampel.

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