Shakespeare’s political tragedy Julius Caesar has been reimagined countless times over the centuries. The 2012 Royal Shakespeare production employed an entirely black cast and relocated the play to Africa to provide commentary on despotism and corruption. Bell Shakespeare’s 2011 production transposed the play into the modern political context of backroom dealings and leadership challenges, paralleling the tussle for power between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. SUDS’ production won’t seek to transform Caesar on such a grand scale, but it will nonetheless attempt to breathe new life into the classic political drama.
In order to achieve that, director Nathaniel Pemberton has cross-gender cast the play’s central characters. His intent in doing so is not to make a statement on gender politics, but rather to compel the audience to view Caesar in a new light. “The aim is simply to renew the audience’s experience of a familiar play, to tell the story freshly and put the focus on the universal issues at the heart of the play,” he says. Pemberton believes that the play is at its core about moral perspectives and “how our inescapable prejudices dictate our choices and the consequences that follow.” To convey these timeless themes, Pemberton feels that a priority is making Shakespearian language accessible. Many productions of Shakespeare – particularly in Australia – are incomprehensible, he says, but “this is not because of the age of the language, but the manner and mastery of its delivery.”
Julius Caesar opens 7:30pm Wednesday March 6 at the Cellar Theatre.