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Julius Caesar review at Storyhouse, Chester – ‘brave and chilling’

The cast of Julius Caesar at Storyhouse, Chester. Photo: Mark Carline The cast of Julius Caesar at Storyhouse, Chester. Photo: Mark Carline
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This isn’t the only production of Julius Caesar this year to find parallels in current politics. While Loveday Ingram sets her take on the play in modern dress against a background of stars and stripes, what really makes it stand out is the way it occupies the venue and becomes a play about the people.

With the opening scenes taking place in the Storyhouse foyer, Christopher Wright’s frighteningly persuasive Caesar arrives triumphant to a welcome from crowds of his supporters, provided by a community chorus.

Once within the auditorium, the ensuing events rapidly descend into a darkness that never becomes murky, with Tim Lutkin’s subtle lighting clearly defining the action against the blackness of the stage.

Amidst a threatening soundscape from Tayo Akinbode’s live, percussive score, Richard Pepper’s thoughtful Brutus and  Christopher Staines’ sinuous Cassius plunge headlong toward their fate. There is a fine performance too from Natalie Grady, as a conflicted but resolute Mark Antony. The cast deliver the text with the utmost clarity and conviction, and stage movement is also judged well to provide sharp focus on the narrative.

At Storyhouse’s opening event, artistic director Alex Clifton spoke about democratising theatre, and this production is a perfect example of what he means, with tremendous power given to the community chorus, drawn from local people. Here is Shakespeare given gravitas and social relevance in a production that grabs its audience and doesn’t let go.

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Verdict
Storyhouse’s opening season concludes with a brave and chilling production of Shakespeare
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