Magazine article Screen International

'Julius Caesar': Edinburgh Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Julius Caesar': Edinburgh Review

Article excerpt

Shot live and set in a prison, this rough, all-female Shakesperean production is urgent, diverse and relevant

Dir. Phyllida Lloyd. UK. 2017. 113 mins.

Director Phyllida Lloyd delivers a riposte to the idea that cinema derived from theatre is somehow a static, inflexible affair with her vital all-female production of Julius Caesar. Set in a women’s prison, and derived from her touring Donmar Warehouse trilogy (which also included The Tempest and Henry IV), this live-shot show (over two nights) is a hybrid of theatre, event cinema and something more shockingly intimate and connective.

This is dynamic theatre, much more close-up and urgent than event cinema

Set to compete at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Julius Caesar was originally intended as a record of both Harriet Walter’s extraordinary performance (as Brutus) and the work Lloyd has done with the Clean Break Theatre Company, which collaborates with female ex-offenders. Yet its rough-edged go-pro rush could make an artistic mark outside obvious educational and rehabilitation potential, in much the same way as fellow theatre director Rufus Norris’s London Road had its own impact.

This is dynamic theatre, much more close-up and urgent than event cinema, which Lloyd has avoided, yet also incorporating an audience and some real-life events from her experience of working in prisons. (Occasionally, for example, performers will swop roles when one is marched out for a court date, or for medication.) This type of production has been attempted before onscreen, most notably The Taviani Brothers with the all-male Cesar Must Die winning the Golden Bear in 2012. Yet Lloyd’s drama doesn’t really compare.

When the director of Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady first signed on with London’s Donmar Warehouse to stage these touring Shakespearean productions, back in 2012, the all-female concept seemed like a novelty: but times have changed. Within minutes and before Brutus even makes her appearance, sex already seems secondary. Walter delivers the hoped-for powerhouse performance, but the whole cast impresses. …

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