Julius Caesar: Presented by Single Thread Theatre Company at Chernoff Hall, Kingston, Ontario
Stephenson, Jenn, Shakespeare Bulletin
Presented by Single Thread Theatre Company at Chernoff Hall, Kingston, Ontario. October 1-5, 2003. Directed by Jonathan Langley. Assistant director Kimberley McLeod. Dramaturgy by Liam Karry. Costumes by Robin Willis. Sound by Paul Hopson. Media by Ryan Graham. With Liam Karry (Caesar), Michael Rode (Brutus), Graham Kosakoski (Antony), Andrei Drooz (Cassius), Maggie Blake (Portia), Kate Hodgert (Calphurnia), Ashleigh Rains (Decius), Simon Cheung (Casca), Phil Borg (Cinna), Amber Mills (Lucius), Aaron Stern (Octavius), Drew Mitchell (Publius), Dave Messer (Pindarus), Kevin Millington (Soothsayer), Aaron Guravich (Lepidus), Steph Lang (Artemidorus), Jessi Linn Taylor (Tour Guide), and others.
Transposing Rome of the first century BC to Rome the ultramodern pharmaceutical research and development corporation, this contemporary-dress production made innovative use of found space in and around Chernoff Hall, the newly built chemistry building on the campus of Queen's University. The unusual choice of venue is typical of Single Thread Theatre Company. This is a company that has an interest in presenting classical works in non-traditional spaces and in nontraditional arrangements. In this case, the decision to mount the show in Chernoff Hall had a significant impact on the mise en scene as it related to the theme of political ambition as emphasized in the production. To reflect on this theme, cinematic techniques of framing were applied in the theater. By manipulating the gaze of the audience "camera" through careful staging of the actors in concert with the architectural environment, the theme of the appropriate scale of the human was continually foregrounded.
The play began with the audience being hustled outside to greet the arrival of Caesar and his entourage in a black SUV. The visual track of the audience began at the top of a long flight of stairs and a broad walkway running parallel to the building down to the road, easily seventy-five meters away. We first saw Caesar at this distance. In this long shot, the human figures emerging from the vehicles were framed against the backdrop of the surrounding buildings, the road, and the lake behind. As the audience hurried down the steps, the actors came briskly towards us, shrinking the "camera distance" as the shot zoomed in. When they brushed past us, the frame panned to a reverse shot of these retreating forms and we ran to follow them. Back inside for the next scene, the scope of the visual frame changed radically. Contained between the glass doors leading outside and the atrium railing, we were compelled by the space to cluster together and view Brutus and Cassius drinking coffee in medium close-up, as we peered between or over the shoulders of those in front. Although set at a very unusual proximity for theater audiences accustomed to a greater viewing distance, the intimate scale of the scene, so typical of Hollywood films, illustrated its very ordinariness: two men discussing office politics at the coffee station. In these two juxtaposed initial scenes, Caesar and Brutus were framed quite differently in terms of their relationship to the audience and to the architectural environment. Without professing a firm conclusion, the production used opposing visual scales to immediately frame our consideration of the ambitions of these powerful men.
In addition to the manipulation of "camera distance," the mise en scene of this production also made use of something like camera angle to further interrogate the question of individual influence and the correct limits of political power in a collective, corporate context. The central space of Chernoff Hall is a truncated oval-shaped multilevel atrium, reminiscent of a Roman amphitheater in glass, polished metal, and blond wood. …