With Julius Caesar peeking over the horizon, we interviewed Fight Director Jonathan Waller to find out just how he’s shaped all the action ahead.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role on Julius Caesar?
I am a fight director and teacher and have been doing that for nearly 25 years. I teach at LAMDA, Guildhall and Rutgers University at Shakespeare’s Globe. I also study historical and contemporary combat and conflict behaviours and styles and the wider cultural context that they come from.
How have you gone about directing the fight scenes?
I see the shape that the actors and Simon the director have come up with… that gives me the idea of the story they are working to tell. I then use my understanding to give them direction while also thinking about what will help tell that story to the audience.
Who has been your favourite character to work with?
There isn’t one character per se. The scenes I’ve been working on are very much about a group of people, the choices they make and how those choices impact on all of them. However, it was great to work with Julian Glover again. I met him first when he worked with my father and then many years later got to work with him myself on the fight scenes for The Globe’s production of King Lear in which he played the lead role.
What is it like working with Director Simon Dormandy?
I’ve known and worked Simon many times over the last 15 plus years. I also recently did Julius Caesar with him at The Globe. Simon is so familiar with my philosophy and approach to stage combat as he was taught by my father when he was a student at drama school. He’s good to work with because he sees the vital part that violence needs to play when it takes place in a story. He also also appreciates what I as the Fight Director can bring to the shaping of actions for each of the characters. He listens and takes on board suggestions. Not all directors work that way.
Do you think the story of Julius Caesar is still relevant today?
It’s a human story about human behaviours that were already old when Shakespeare wrote the play. They were ancient behaviours even when Caesar lived but they are still current now. The relevance is there for the audience to find in their interaction with the play. It’s worked for over 400 years so all we’re doing now is providing the right platform to serve this story.
What is it like working on a show created by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and Bristol Old Vic?
It’s been a really good experience. Of course, knowing the director and Julian has helped. I have approached it as I always do; to serve the story to the best of my ability. The actors from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School have also been great to work with… though I wouldn’t expect any less. I know Jonathan Howell, their Head of Movement very well.
What has been the best part of working on this production so far?
It’s had a great atmosphere which has really helped to tell this strong story with a good sense of truth to it. It’s also good to continue collaborating with Simon and to have the company responding positively to it all. Again, it’s also been great to work with Julian again. He’s been very complimentary about the work I’ve done on the production and how easy I’ve made the fight scenes to perform. To get a compliment like that from someone who has been in the business as long as him, well… it’s fantastic.