Anna Kilcooley sees the Old Vic Theatre School take on a Shakespearean classic...but did they do it justice?

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic (Credit: Simon Purse)

In the heat of the politics of the moment, I’ve heard lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar quoted several times, or the odd newscaster mention of ‘scenes like something from Julius Caesar’. From this I gleaned that it was probably a fairly uninteresting play, full of long soliloquys and reflection. 

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The play opens with a burst of energy, welcoming the jubilant Caesar home, and the atmosphere is so infectious I almost found myself wanting to stand up and applaud his arrival myself. It’s in these scenes that you really absorb the buzz of the graduates of the Old Vic Theatre School. There’s no jaded attitude here, each performance full of life. 

As Brutus leads the treachery against Caesar, the once simple but palatial scenery falls into the backdrop of a riot and grafitti-daubed columns; reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. I was impressed with the use of the space, as the audience becomes intermingled with the baying mob calling for Caesars death to be avenged. 

It’s always with trepidation that I step into anything by a company with ‘Theatre School’ in its title. Visions of forgotten lines, mis-timed cues or - worse of all - over-acting send shivers down my spine. But once again, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School proved itself to be up there with the pros, maybe even topping them.

Related

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School: Julius Caesar
Performance
Pound Arts Centre

A rollercoaster tale of murder, politics and loyal friendships betrayed. This new version, specially adapted for young audiences, reimagines the play in a modern world of media manipulation, digital information and 24 hour news.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Theatre
Bristol Old Vic

Britain's oldest working theatre showcases some of the most cutting-edge theatre in the country.