On Wednesday, May 11th, I went and took a seat on the steps of the School of Education Courtyard in preparation for the Shakespearian play to start. The air was a little chilly and since all of the plays will be done outdoors at night time, I must recommend that if you plan on attending, you should bring something warm to wear. Many of the people there with enough foresight brought a blanket. Thankfully I was one of the them.
From the beginning, the director tells the audience that they should sit as close to the front of the stage as possible and I would definitely have to agree with that. The closer you are to the stage, the easier it is to hear the actors and actresses, to see the action, and to notice the subtle little things that occur, such as the soothsayer’s enchantments. Speaking of the seating, the audience also has to move to the opposite side of the courtyard during the second half of the play. The shift is meant to give the audience a view of the battlefield from the inside of the senate building, where all the action had been prior to the intermission and assassination of Caesar. It’s a very neat idea that works very well with the open space setting of the play.
The play also has a very peculiar take on the character of Gaius Cassius Longinus, or sometimes simply known as Cassius, because he’s portrayed by a female. It gives the relationship between her/him and Brutus a very unique perspective. Instead of being simple conspirators, it makes it seem as if they could possibly have been lovers, showing a even deeper psychological layer for the audience to examine as they enjoy the play.
The fight scenes in the play are done quite fantastically. They are action packed and you’ll be on the edge of your seat as you watch them. Each character’s part is so important that one misstep could actually cause physical injury, which makes the scenes seem all the more realistic and exciting. The actors also use the space given to them extremely well, moving from one side to the other, keeping the audience drawn in with the clashing of blades, and the spilling of blood. I talked with one of the audience members, Ian, and he had quite a few compliments for the show. He said “I really liked their use of an unconventional theater space. The director did a really good job of presenting an original view of the play. It’s definitely fun to watch.”
Lighting and music helped set the mood of the play drastically. Without it, the death of Caesar and the final battle would not have been nearly as strong. The costumes were also very well done, giving a cross between a modern and ancient feel. Going with the costumes, the props looked fantastic, each weapon looking like it was taken right off of an ancient roman battlefield.
There is one thing, however, that I must reprimand. Towards the beginning of the show, some of the actors turned around, with their back towards the audience and spoke. This is one of the major things that should not be done in any production.
Overall, the play was well done and it was a fun experience. The director said the next day “Last night the actors were on fire. They were listening to each other and responding with urgency, but most of all, they were having fun and as the director it was an absolute joy to watch. Last night the show became alive and it was completely different than all of the countless run throughs I have watched in our rehearsals. If I did have one constructive note, it would actually be for the audience: don’t be afraid to get into the action of the play. During the first half of the performance, I think the audience felt anchored to having to sit down on the Courtyard steps, however I think the best way to experience outdoor Shakespeare to to sit as close to the performance as much as possible. With a show all about conspiracy and secrets, the audience should be right next to the action.” Just make sure that if you go and watch this play to sit towards the front of the show, bring something to keep you warm, and to know that the play lasts for 2 and a half hours. If you know all this, then you should be able to enjoy the show immensely!