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What would you get if Lord Sugar’s share went after Caesar’s! … Patrick Marmion reviewing Julius Caesar


Julius Caesar **

Referee: Romanian rookie

Who was the noblest Roman of them all? From Julius Caesar to Silvio Berlusconi, the eternal city has had more than its fair share of contenders vying for the title of il grande formaggio.

Now that rivalry is on fire again, thanks to a touring revival of Shakespeare’s opening tragedy in Stratford, and a musical parody about a disgraced media mogul in Southwark.

RSC’s Julius Caesar is the more curious offering, throwing a bunch of rookies and rookies to the lions in another PC vision of the Bard.

Director Atre Banerjee presents the dog-eat-or cat-eat-Christian world of ancient Rome as a wonderfully diverse and inclusive democracy.

Here, the conspirators who join forces against the supposed ambition of a fat, middle-aged Caesar (Nigel Barrett) are trendy lesbian millennials.

What’s missing from this flawless PC, orderly and odorless production is a sense of clutter

It’s as if the godlike Alan Sugar created a version of The Apprentice and gave a team of young reality hopefuls the go-to mission to nail Caesar.

Rising to the challenge, Kelly Gough is the fierce Cassius. Like a rugby prop forward, she rests her shoulder on Shakespeare’s rhetorical verse to push Thalesa Teixeira’s tall and frail Brutus into leading a plot against Caesar.

Alas, Teixeira remains stubbornly beautiful and decisively mysterious. Perhaps it was because she had the perfect life with his vibrant wife, Portia.

Given that she tells us she loves Caesar (platonically), she is motivated to kill him only in order to end his ambition.

Today, unfortunately, honor is an anachronism and ambition is a moral positive — so we’re left with an ideological vacuum, with little reason for the co-conspirators to risk their cozy utopias of diversity and inclusivity.

It might have helped if, like their rival Marc Anthony, William Robinson was more of a nasty fascist than a sensitive millennial.

With the exception of Portia’s sentimentally adjusted Kemp’s Savvy Club, the overemphasized diction obliterates Shakespeare’s nuances, paradoxes, and moods.

Rosanna Vize’s show looks fantastic, with a huge rotating cube containing an olive tree and allowing artistic projections that also intertwine with a mysterious environmental message.

Mysteriously connected to this is the use of oil instead of fake blood, and an atomic clock that counts down time.

And there’s captivating music by Jasmine Kent Rodgman, which combines primal weeping with throbbing drums and brassy brass.

What’s missing from this flawless PC, orderly and odorless production is a sense of clutter.

For that we must look to Shakespeare’s grammar, spelled out throughout and hitting rock bottom in the docks of Marc Antony’s judgment over Brutus: “She is an honorable man.”

Berlusconi *

Referee: Ignoblest Roman

As many women know for their cost, Silvio Berlusconi must be handled with care. So too, I fear, will this lively New Year’s musician, Berlusconi, open the new third venue of the Southwark Playhouse.

The anarchic tone of The Ricky Simmonds & Simon Vaughan Show, nearly three hours long, is not badly judged, and we’re invited to laugh at the clownish ways of the hustler famous for throwing ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties in his villa, but also claiming to lament The fate of women whose lives are poisoned.

Nor is there much Italian material about Anglo-Saxon rock, which could actually be from the opera Berlusconi is writing, per one of the show’s not-so-funny jokes.

The chaotic tone of The Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan Show, which is close to three hours long, is not well judged.

The chaotic tone of The Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan Show, which is close to three hours long, is not well judged.

James Grieve’s cramped production crams the narrow stage with a marble identity that mimics the steps in front of the Italian Parliament. He thus reduced the choreography to walking on the spot and waving his arm.

Could he at least find a short, fat and bald Berlusconi instead of the tall, skinny Sebastian Turkey, with his lush hair?

In a crowded field that includes Nero and Borgias, the four-time former Italian prime minister was certainly one of the mightiest Romans ever. And now he has a piece of music.

A fierce farce to make the Met confuse

by Veronica Lee

Accidental death of an anarchist *****

What great timing for this exploration of tough policing, which takes place in London (having originated in Sheffield Theatres) just as the metropolitan police force is threatened with dissolution after a long string of scandals.

References to the Met’s flaws figure prominently in Tom Basden’s brilliant adaptation of Dario Fo and Franca Ram’s political farce, based on real-life events when an anarchist ‘fell’ out of a window while being interrogated by the Milan police in 1969.

In the updated version of Mr. Basden, The Maniac (Daniel Rigby) – a fictional con artist who suffers from “stage mania” as he says – is questioned by Inspector Burton (Howard Ward) about his recent impersonation when he learns that a suspicious death will be investigated at police station by a judge.

He disguises himself as the Justice League and begins interrogating the police, including thick Detective Daisy (Jordan Metcalfe), arrogant Superintendent Carrie (Tony Gardner) and Constable Joseph (Shane David Joseph).

Tom Basden's script is full of visual gags and clever wordplay, and Daniel Raggett's production moves quickly to deliver exciting entertainment.

Tom Basden’s script is full of visual gags and clever wordplay, and Daniel Raggett’s production moves quickly to deliver exciting entertainment.

But as he delves into their obviously bogus record of the incident, The Maniac encourages them to add layer upon layer of deception, ending with the farcical notion that it was the officers’ kind treatment of the anarchist—including singing with him, hilariously staged—that prompted him to jump out a window.

Leading a talented cast, Rigby delivers a gutsy performance: comically breaking the fourth wall, effortlessly bringing the audience along as he paraphrases officers’ words, and directing episodes about investigative journalist Faye Phelan (Robbie Thomas), who is sent to cover his death.

Basden’s script is full of visual gags and clever wordplay, and Daniel Raggett’s production moves quickly to deliver exciting entertainment.

The play is only a short distance away in Hammersmith, but is sure to be headed for the West End.

until April 8 (lyric.co.uk)

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Written by Georgina Brown

Waldo’s Circus of Magic and Terror ****

Verdict: Grace under pressure

At the center of this musical performance are two disappearing acts. In one, Waldo, the ringmaster and magic-free magician of a traveling circus, locks a locker on two actors. Then he opens it. Oh presto, they’re gone. Charm.

In another covert operation, the Nazis “gently cleansed the world” (to name a few), rounding up and “disposing” of those judged “useless”. Terror beyond imagination.

Writers Hattie Naylor and Jamie Bedard have put together this fascinating piece ripped from true stories of the likes of Waldo and his circus troupe where those who didn’t fit in were welcomed in, often for what is called a “weirdness.”

In Germany, under the Nazis, many disabled people were smuggled to safety via circus nets.

Not that Waldo (a weak-willed Gary Robson) runs a charity. He refuses to give shelter to Joseph, who is Jewish.

Meanwhile, his latest recruit, Gerhard (Lawrence Swadel), falls in love with Krista (Abby Purvis), a person of small stature – but who considers a disposable “weak-minded” Dora. Even beneath this great magical peak, fascism finds fertile ground.

Early on, Krista challenges us to “stare, stare, stare” at those Brownshirts call “freaks,” declaring that she’s going to take that word back, own it and make her scream. Which she does, in song, and deliciously defiant.

Even more charming is the atmospheric duo between Rene (Johnny Leach, also the band’s drummer) and Peter (Tilly Lee Kronich), two very different bodies twirling with dreamy grace and desire on a swing beneath Ti Green’s large, atmospheric top.

There is much to commend here, not least for the ambition of a production in which disabled, ramified, and non-disabled performers together expose the perils of fascism.

If only the acting, characterization, and narration were as slick and brilliant as juggling, twisting, and rope work.

However, the originality and fearlessness of the show on so many levels takes your breath away.

(For tour dates, go to extraordinarybodies.org.uk)

Ugly Sisters help Ash shine

Cinderella ****

The verdict: A ballet to escape the dark times

Bantu season may be over, but there’s still ballet dancing going on. In The Royal Ballet’s Cinderella, there’s a comedic twist of the ugly sisters, who flit through the piece with indefatigable enthusiasm.

In fact, Gary Avis as the older sister has more of a Julian Clary touch about him.

This is the revival, 75 years later, by Frederic Ashton to Prokofiev’s score. Tom Pye’s collection is charming.

In The Royal Ballet's Cinderella, there's a comedic turn of the ugly sisters, darting through the piece with indefatigable enthusiasm.

In The Royal Ballet’s Cinderella, there’s a comedic twist of the ugly sisters, who flit through the piece with tireless enthusiasm.

Inside the house, poor Cinders is cleaning up the dust, while the Hffalump sisters fight for the attention of the dancing master.

On the first night, Marianela Nunes is in the role of Ash, more sad and sweet than downtrodden. Prokofiev wrote that he wanted Cinderella to be a real person.

Pulling at the heart strings comes with placing her dead mother’s portrait on the mantelpiece, dancing with the broom.

And what a blessing, boy. In the first chapter, where the Fairy Godmother – Fumi Kaneko’s poised – presides over the fairies of the four seasons, it was the Pumpkin Coach, drawn by mice, who stole the show.

Vadim Montagirov is an exceptional prince. He is dignified and aloof before the Cinders’ arrival, and all contained with passion afterward.

Prokofiev lacks the charming melodies of Tchaikovsky, but it’s a score that grows on you.

The live show will be in cinemas on April 12th.

It runs until May 3.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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