Saturday, February 19, 2011

Caesar, what the?

I have been looking forward to seeing La Boite's production of Julius Caesar for some weeks now. La Boite is theater in the round and they received rave reviews for last years production of Hamlet. So I was surprised and amused at first by the jarring and extremely loud music that the play began with and the drunken cavorting about the stage of a few semi-dressed unnamed characters (see image on right).

My amusement turned to horror when Cassius came out wearing a toga fashioned (and I am not lying) out of a white bed sheet and teamed up with some white sneakers and sports socks. Okay I thought, this may look farcical, but surely it must get better. Brutus was in a white singlet with a pair of footy shorts and thankfully barefoot. But then it got worse (maybe not worse than the bed sheet toga, but pretty damn bad). This was the sneaker/pajama production of Caesar, each time a character came out on stage I made a mental note about their Nikes, or Adidas of either pure white or black. I felt embarrassed for them. I just keep thinking, "why... and for what end?".

The death of Caesar was as predictable as it was poorly executed, with flashing red lights and the worst blood packs I have ever seen. He was running with blood, but it explained why he looked so fat when he came out on stage in a crumpled shirt and suit jacket that also could have done with a good iron. With the stupid red flashing lights was more loud music, as they stabbed Caesar with kitchen (!) knives, like some frenzied shark attack.

The award for worst costume goes to the guy who played (among other things) the old woman at the start who warns Caesar (see image to the left). He was wearing skin tight jeans, no shirt and a fake fur jacket, with his underpants showing above his low lying jeans, tucked into a pair of unlaced boots - but at least they were not sneakers! He was also wearing a cross around his neck - some kind of pre-Jesus prophet?

There were a few redeeming features, but not many, Shakespeare with heavy Australian accents and poor emphasis is really intolerable, and really on the same level as the sneakers and togas. When Caesar was killed, the actors wore suit pants, white shirts and ties and the two females wore black dresses. Had they maintained that aesthetic through out the play, it might have worked. But the togas and fake fur, sneakers and pajamas were jarring and ridiculous. It looked more like a rehearsal than the "real thing". At half time Dylan and I weighed up our options and promptly left, we didn't want to see what they would do to Mark Antony's speech. I am regretting the fifty plus dollars I spent on tickets and the fact that this was my Valentine's Day present to Dylan - sorry darling. I only wish I had a picture of Cassius to show you, but at least you get to see the rock and roll old woman and some plastic armor, and I think you get the idea about my feelings regarding the bed sheet togas and sneakers!

One star and I want my money back.

Both images from the La Boite website. 


  1. My friends and I actually loved this show. Much of the play is about sleep and dreams, so a lot of the costuming made sense to me, especially for Brutus. Pity you missed the second half: the dream stuff came back with amazing force. It got four cheering curtain calls the night I was there. I'm going back I liked it so much.

    Why complain about Australian accents? What accent is it supposed to be in? An incomprehensible late 16th century mish-mash? I thought Australian theatre won that battle in the 1970s.

  2. Hi Graham, it was painful.

    Hello anonymous, I am glad you liked it, but I can't get past the bed sheet toga, it was like a parody of Shakespeare.

    As for the Australian accents, I can't handle a nasal twang in a shopping center, let alone in Shakespeare. I didn't say it shouldn't be done in an Australian accent, I said some of them were harsh.

  3. Wasn't the opening a toga party? Hence the bed sheets and sneakers? isn't that an interesting contemporary version of the Lupercal feast, which opens Shakespeare's play, in which naked youths, dressed only in sacrificed goat skins, run through the streets whipping women on the way with leather thongs to make them more fertile? They came back in Brutus's dream at the very end - a real coup, wrapping up the conceit nicely.

  4. The beginning seemed tacked on the the sneakers and togas were lame. Obviously I have upset you with my review, but if you google some more reviews of this play you will find I am not alone in not liking the costumes, music and beginning of the show.

    This production has had very mixed reviews, you liked it and I didn't. I am not presenting myself as a theater scholar, what I wrote is my opinion, for all I know you are in the production dear anonymous and I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.

    Here are some more reviews that are certainly more even handed than mine, but also complain about the costumes, music etc.:

  5. No, nothing to do with the production. Just an average theatre goer, who admires good work. Pity you missed the climax. That's where it all gelled for me.

    I enjoy reading your blog, btw. I just think you're a bit old school on this one...

    Thanks for the links, too...

  6. Yes I am willing to admit to that sin, perhaps I am a bit old school on this one.

  7. Since I know you have seen this play previously, I find it only reasonable that you make comparisons and that this version didn't appeal to you. I'm a bit old school too and it certainly doesn't sound like my cup of tea. I'm so glad you wrote the review. It's good to hear your honest opinion as an average theater goer.

    'Anonymous' comments always amuse me.


  8. I'm old I count?

  9. Two anonymous commenters, this is could get confusing!

  10. ha, I'm still laughing from this review!

  11. I totally get what you mean, Fiona - I don't think it would have appealed to me either... and that's point one - we are all entitled to our opinion and even 'anonymous' can give theirs... but point two, of course, is you can give your opinion without belittling the opinions of others (and then to hide under an anonymous tag to boot!)... well, that's just bad mannered and cowardly.


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