As the audience began to fill Venue 2, there was a palpable excitement in the air. The community of St Andrews has come to expect high quality from dramatic productions, especially in a showcase like On the Rocks, and the students assembled to see Julius Caesar were most certainly not disappointed.
This beautifully directed rendition of one of Shakespeare’s finest plays captivated the audience throughout, and although it was perhaps a bit too long, the quality of acting and the masterful delivery of the narrative more than redeemed it.
Benji Bailey’s modern twist on a classic allowed the audience to better relate to the balance of power in Shakespeare’s classic tale whilst remaining true to the original masterpiece; the play’s language was retained but the costumes and temporal setting were updated to give a more contemporary feel.
Cooper Goldman was enthralling to watch as Julius Caesar; he commanded the stage with his compelling performance and distinctively amusing voice. As the title character, the role must have been daunting but Goldman pulled it off with ease and flair. Tom Vanson, who played Cassius, gave a passionate performance that went to the heart of Shakespearian drama; his interpretation of the villainous character was both nuanced and engaging, winning the audience’s support despite his plotting. This portrayal was, in the view of this reviewer, the standout performance in a stellar cast.
Chris Cannell, playing Brutus, was also a strong presence on stage and steadily guided the development of his pivotal role. The tense moments of conspiracy portrayed by Vanson and Cannell provided a fascinating insight into the treacherous world of Ancient Rome. Both actors brought the ruthless politicking of the senators to life on stage.
The relationship between Brutus and his wife Portia, played by Caterina Giammerresi, was highly convincing, and Cannell and Giammerresi were clearly immersed themselves in their roles. The dynamic between the two provided some of the production’s more memorable moments and Giammerresi’s performance gave a welcome feminine but powerful counterbalance to Shakespeare’s male-dominated plot. She also looked fierce in her dress.
Based on the standard of this production, I look forward to future performances from this wonderfully talented cast and production team.
Photo credits go to Adryon Kozel and On the Rocks