And so it begins!
We are excited to have begun the journey of rehearsals on Julius Caesar with the core of our troupe combining 12 actors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, with Julian Glover (Julius Caesar), Lynn Farleigh (Calpurnia) and John Hartoch (Soothsayer). In two weeks’ time the rest of our company, a group of eight performers from the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, Bristol Old Vic Adult Company, and Bristol Acting Academy will also join us.
Our first week kicked off with the company as well as tech and production members from both the Bristol Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School meeting at the school. It was such a pleasure to begin the process with the full energy and support of both groups behind us! Our first day began with a read through of the entire play. This was our first chance to hear Simon Dormandy’s wonderful cut of the play all together. One of the most exciting changes is that Simon has given through arcs to all the characters allowing for those who are part of the conspiracy at the beginning of the play to have their say in the war of the second half
Our first day continued with the presentation of the set design by Sarah Mercadé and costumes by Eleanor Bull. Both final term design students at BOVTS, they have created a 21st Century Italy which allows the company to play against the backdrop of another dimensional Italy in which a populist dictator is coming to power- so, nothing like our modern world at all…
The rest of our week has been filled with table work in which we were able to ask all the questions about the play, the history, and our production which we will continue to answer in the coming weeks. It threw up questions of allegiance, power, relationships, and of course politics. We have broken the play into acting units, defining which character is driving the action, what they are trying to do to their “target”, and we have begun to explore the tactics they use to get what they want. Julian, Lynn, and John have been incredible leaders in the room pushing the student actors to interrogate the text in new ways, and the student actors have taken the buck and run, probing their initial thoughts, and assumptions, and stretching themselves.
The company has come in with wonderful work on the verse already begun, and Simon has been able to use the time at the table to begin to dig into the detail of the verse. One of the most exciting moments of the week was seeing Julian and Lynn each gave their versions of the line “I should not need if you were gentle, Brutus.” Their mastery of the text brings the play to life.
As we come to the end of our table work we begin to see the drive of tragedy and revenge through the arc of the play which splits two generations against each other fighting for the soul of the Roman Republic and poses the question is it better to kill a would be populist, or is what follows the assassination worse?
Written by Jessica McVay