Posts Tagged ‘Eloise Secker’

Cicero gets nine lines in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; here he gets a play in two parts, each of three acts, with a playing time of six hours. The RSC have given us a number of two-part epics in recent years. from Nicholas Nickleby through Canterbury Tales to Wolf Hall. Mike Poulton was responsible for the adaptation of the last two of these, as he is for this adaptation of Robert Harris’ Cicero Trilogy, a big slice of fascinating Roman history littered with contemporary parallels, and it’s brilliant.

Cicero may be the most significant Roman you don’t know much about. That’s because he was an orator and lawyer rather than an Emperor or military figure, but was considered the father of the republic and the go-to man for legal advice and rhetorical coaching, becoming a philosopher in later life. His life was extraordinarily well documented by his slave-turned-confidente & biographer Tiro. Though his papers were lost, they were known to Plutarch, who was the source for Shakespeare’s play, so Harris’ books and these plays have a solid foundation in fact, based on Plutarch.

When it starts, Rome is a republic, with democracy of a sort, two consuls elected annually by a senate made up of the great and the good of Rome, most rich patricians, but some self-made plebeians like Cicero. Cicero is a Consul and protector of the republic, but Julius Caesar is due back in triumph intent on turning Cicero’s precious republic into a dictatorship. Cicero is sent into exile, but is allowed to return before Caesar’s assassination, in which he doesn’t really play a part, though he does approve of the return of the republic, or so he thinks.

Next up is Mark Anthony, whose wife Fulvia is ‘the power behind the throne’ and he seems permanently pissed. Cicero is their biggest critic but he fails to take the Senate with him in his plan to deal with Mark Anthony, and ends up in exile once more, while Mark Anthony & Fulvia continue their life of excess and corruption. Cicero is approached by Julius Caesar’s chosen heir Octavian, who he takes a shine to and decides to help, but he too is more than meets the eye. and when he forms an alliance with Mark Anthony, Cicero is violently dispatched. Octavian will go on to become Augustus, the next dictator.

Like his other adaptations, this is rich in story and narrative and is a real theatrical feast. It’s a slow burn at first, but by the third act of the first part you’re in its grip, until its subject’s head is on a pole! In Anthony Ward’s design, the Swan has stairs behind, a pit below and a giant globe above, which provide a brilliantly flexible but evocative setting. Paul Engishby’s music, heavy on brass, is particularly good at accompanying the triumphant entries into Rome. This is the sort of production director Greg Doran does so well – lucid, well paced and often thrilling.

Cicero is a huge part and Richard McCabe is magnificent, a career high I’d say. I loved Joseph Kloska as diffident but loyal Tiro, whose journey takes him from slave to assistant to confidente to advisor and biographer. Peter de Jersey has great presence as Julius Caesar and Joe Dixon shines as both Catiline and Mark Anthony, two power hungry chancers, as does Oliver Johnstone as Cicero’s protege Rufus and Octavian and Eloise Secker as Clodia and Fulvia. A terrific ensemble of seventeen actors play all of the remaining roles.

It was a difficult trip to Stratford, where I almost got stranded in the snow, but it was a real theatrical banquet and I don’t regret the travails one bit. This is the sort of theatre you remember for years.

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Well, the Edinburgh buzz was right again. I missed this during the fringe so followed my instincts (and whatsonstage.com’s recommendation) and headed to Croydon Warehouse Theatre (Croydon? well, it’s only 20 mins away!) and boy am I glad I did.

I can’t remember the last time I saw something so inventive. This young company zip through Ovid’s tales using every theatrical trick in the book from mime to puppetry to projections with great use of  songs and music by Lucy Egger. It took me a short while to get into it (I think it would have been a good idea to remind myself of the stories in advance) but when it gets hold of you it never let’s go.

There’s a simplicity to much of the staging, but that takes nothing away from the creativity of Peter Bramley’s direction and design. The Second World War setting is inspired, as is the use of screens for all sorts of purposes including scene changes. The props have a charming home-made feel. The seven performers are so good they all deserve a mention – Jonathan Davenport, Jo Dockery, Mabel Jones, Joseph Mann, Alex Parker, Hannah Pierce and Eloise Secker!

I think they should drop the unnecessary interval, which might improve the bar profits but hinders the flow a little, and maybe take a look at the ending to see if  they could make it less abrupt. Otherwise, a treat which reminded me of the first time I saw Kneehigh (I mean the excitement not similarity) and I can’t wait to see Pants on Fire (what a great name for a theatre company!) again.

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