Julius Caesar (with pirates!)

Aug 13 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆  Unlucky

Black Market Room 7 (Venue 399): Sat 5 – Fri 18 August 2017
Review by Linus West

Constantly battling against the elements, Julius Caesar (with pirates!) delivers no more or less than you can expect of a free fringe show in the Black Market on Market Street.

Held back by a flimsy budget, many of the actors punch above their weight, while others fall behind. At times, it’s painful to watch. At others, it’s fun.

Christopher Paddon, Justin Skelton and John Spilsbury. Pic Nigel Thorton

Let’s reiterate – this show is free. Don’t walk in anticipating slick sets and elegant effects, Some Kind of Theatre are working with basically zero on stage resources. On the other hand, that doesn’t excuse them from lazy acting and poor directing.

The premise is simple; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, but with pirates in the place of Romans. On paper, it’s a good idea – you can easily picture a mutinous crew, turning on their captain and stabbing him to death. A refreshing take on the classic story. However, they fail to fully embrace the concept, leaving their production in an awkward middle point between the original and adapted storylines.

Part of this is down to the shaky set – a mere two panels covered in canvas, depicting on a map where the ship is located. Limited funds mean this can’t be avoided, but other decisions could definitely have been made, genuinely immersing the audience in the idea that they are on deck.

Their sound system could have been used, playing sea-sailing music or the lapping of waves between each scene. The lights towards the back of the room could have been turned off, focusing the audience in on the action. If they really wanted to rock the boat, lines in the script referring to “Romans” could even have been changed to… pirates.

Coherent show

Amidst these conditions, the cast are attempting to create a coherent show. In the end, they take a respectable stab at it.

Felix Maxwell, Justin Skelton and Christopher Paddon. Pic: Perry Jonsson Art

Christopher Paddon takes on the character of Cassius, plotting against Caesar from the very first scene. He gives a solid and believable performance, villainous beard and all. One of the two best actors in the entire show.

His costume, it also has to be noted, is very impressive – all of the outfits are. The layered fabrics and intricate details really are overkill. On a more immersive set, they would look spectacular.

The second star actor is without a doubt Justin Skelton, in the role of Casca. Virtually all the laughs come from him, as he slyly schemes the dictator’s assassination – slipping in the odd bit of humour where he can. Towards the start this takes the form of a puppet parrot, possibly the best directorial decision of the show. For some reason though, it’s quickly disposed off backstage; leaving Skelton to punch even further above his weight.

Tragically, neither of these actors steal the show. That honour goes to the air conditioning unit; screaming its lungs off throughout the entire performance.

It’s in tough circumstances like these that talented actors shine. You can tell who the professionals are; those that just roll up their sleeves, and carry on regardless.

Heather Milne and John Spilsbury fall short of that milestone, in their respective roles of Antony and Brutus. Despite immersing themselves absolutely fine in the characters, their voices consistently drop to an inaudible, slurred mumble.

Amongst this mishmash of talent and trauma, a surprise standout actor emerges. Felix Maxwell, in the relatively minor roles of Flavius and Cinna, commands a loud, booming voice. He is too little onstage – the production would benefit massively from letting him portray Brutus, giving the character the kind of authority it deserves.

In the end, Julius Caesar (with pirates!) evens out into an average performance. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cringe – it’s just annoying when genuine talent gets held back. However, it’s free, so you can only expect so much.

Running time 1 hour 5 mins (no interval)
Black Market Room 7, 32 Market Street, EH1 1QB (Venue 399)
Saturday 5 – Friday 18 August 2017
Daily, 7pm.
Details on the ‘Some Kind of Theatre’ Website: https://www.somekindoftheatre.co.uk/pirate-julius-caesar

Some Kind of Theatre on Twitter: @SKOTheatre
Some Kind of Theatre on Facebook: @somekindoftheatre
Some Kind of Theatre Website: https://www.somekindoftheatre.co.uk

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