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Tony Grist

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Julius Caesar on BBC 4 [Jun. 25th, 2012|11:56 am]
Tony Grist
Julius Caesar is a dark and sweaty play, full of ghosts and omens. Is it illuminating to transfer the action to modern Africa, or a little patronizing?

Greg Doran's TV film has a competent, all-black cast, with Paterson Joseph outshining everyone else by several degrees of magnitude.  His Brutus (as good a Brutus as you're ever likely to see) combines effortless charisma with twinkling self-love.  As someone once said of President Wilson, he's "a  great, good man- and he knows it." 

How do you do Shakespeare on film?  Should you open everything out or try to create the cinematic equivalent of the original wooden "O"? This production- which started life on stage in Stratford-  falls somewhere in between, with some scenes shot on what are very obviously stage sets and others in real environments- corridors and rest rooms and cellars.  When filmic is most wanted- as in the crowd scenes and battles- it reverts to its origins.   Act I scene i,  with dancers grooving like they were on Top of the Pops and Flavius and Marullus dispersing them with sjamboks, is so lacking in any sense of danger I almost switched off.