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April 01, 2014

Julius Caesar

Pirton Players were selected to take part in the RSC Open Stages project in 2014, and got to perform Shakespeare's classic Julius Caesar at the RSC in Stratford Upon Avon! Watch the performance below!

The first thing that strikes you when attending a production by Pirton Players is that it always seems such a team effort, from the moment you open the door to the lobby of the village hall. Looking at the programme, produced excellently in traditional style, Julius Caesar was indeed the result of the endeavours of a significant team. Whilst the influence of the Royal Shakespeare Company, as part of the Open Stages project in which Pirton Players were privileged to have been selected to participate, may have been absorbed into the production imperceptibly from the perspective of the audience, there is no-doubting the enthusiasm of the performances and boldness of the production.

Under the directorship of Anton Jungreuthmayer, with doubtless invaluable assistance from Loretta Concannon and Stella Turner, the setting was stark and industrial, yet at the same time intimate, drawing the audience close to the action (and on one occasion allowing my beer to become an active participant!). The spatial arrangements also allowed the actors to deliver some of the most familiar of Shakespeare’s memorable lines with considered emotion, and often quiet angst, augmenting the tension and sustaining an almost complicit audience through the piece.

The play on this occasion opened with a prologue written and performed by Mark Steinhardt. I confess that at the onset, I probably looked at the programmes notes waiting for the action, but Mark very quickly drew you in to the picture he was painting, illustrating the political relationships and social backcloth to the play, and giving colourful context to what was to follow – an excellent addendum to the play.

The play itself is very much popularly regarded as a play of two distinct and quite different halves – and the second half is quite often challenging and, for those of us who remain oft-challenged by Billy S, too long. The cutting was, for this impatient Shakespearean watcher, welcome and informed, as the story was, for me at least, complete. The stylised action and modern setting also worked well, retaining and often aiding the audience’s accessibility to the meaning of the words.

The play, in name of course, is about Caesar, both living and in spirit, and Aiden Dwyer gave a strong performance of a leader, not only believably powerful, but also manipulative and fatally vain. The play to some degree teases the audience with its diverse portrayal of Caesar as apparently resented in life, yet increasingly revered in death. But the play to me is more about relationships and motivation: between the tortured Brutus, the single-minded Cassius and the vengeful (and power-hungry) Antony, as well as between the political classes and the people in general. The triumvirate were given theatrical weight by the excellent performances of Mark Sadler, Deb Basnett, and Mark Savage respectively, all of whom conveyed fully the various emotions and motivations of their characters. In particular, the Brutus that was torn between love for his country and love for his leader, and his ensuing naivety (in allowing Antony a voice) and guilt, was a performance of gentle persuasiveness and for me was really most absorbing and convincing. Brutus’ scene with Cassius prior to the battle which took us through a roller-coaster of a relationship was performed by both actors memorably, with particular and persuasive intensity.

An ensemble piece like this, however, relies heavily on the contributions of all the cast, and there was an energy and enthusiasm to all the performers that carried the play through all the way to its conclusion. The wives of Caesar and Brutus, in particular, were given full expression by Lorna Sexton and Sinead Myerscough. The music, also the result of Pirton’s own membership, notably Margaret Johnson and Andrew Parr, provided a sensory backdrop which augmented the experience. TV screens were used as another tool to draw us in to the experience, and I believe it worked well, though I am probably still working on the relevance of Margaret Thatcher.

Judging from the programme notes, the performances and the feedback in the bar (where else?), this was clearly a challenging and fulfilling experience for those involved. From one audience member’s perspective, possibly just a little partial, it was definitely worth their while; congratulations to everyone involved. [Review by: Duncan Sykes]

Director - Anton Jungreuthmayer
Assistant Director - Loretta Concannon
Producer - Stella Turner

Written & Arranged by Andrew Parr & Margret Johnson
Keyboard - Margaret Johnson
Violin - Gemma Starling
Viola - Emily Clark
Flute - Annette Partridge & Sophie Davies
Double Bass - Lizzie Rowe
Trumpet - Thomas Rowe
Saxophone - Lucinda Rowe
Recorded by Mark Sadler

Written & Performed by Mark Steinhardt

The Ruling Class
Julius Caesar - Aiden Dwyer
Calpurnia, Caesar's wife - Lorna Sexton
Mark Anthony - Mark Savage
Octavius, Caesar's Nephew - Chris Carrell
Lepidus, Joint rule after Caesar - Dave Tinney

The Political Class
Flavius, a Tribune - Sue Kennedy
Marrulus, a Tribune - Paul Kerswill
Brutus, a Senator - Mark Sadler
Portia, Brutus' Wife - Sinead Myerscough
Casca, a Senator - Peter Donovan
Cassius, a Senator - Deb Basnett
Cinna, a Senator - Chris Carrell
Delcius Brutus, a Senator - Paul Kerswill
Mettellus Cimber, a Senator - Sue Kennedy
Trebonius, a Senator - Sophie Davies
Ligarius, a Senator - Dave Tinney
Artemidorus, a Senator - Viv Tyler
Popilius, a Senator - Susie Welch
Cinna The Poet - Roger Burton

The Military Class
Volumnius - Peter Donovan
Messala - Sue Kennedy
Titinius - Paul Kerswill
Clitus - Sophie Davies
Soldiers - Members of the cast

The Under Class
Soothsayer - Ann Fausset
Lucius, Servant to Brutus - Roger Burton
Messenger - Alison Cotterill
Messenger - Viv Tyler
Pindarus, Servant to Cassius - Sinead Myerscough
Servant to Caesar - Stella Turner
Servant to Mark Anthony - Justine McCreith
Citizens - Members of the cast

Director - Anton Jungreuthmayer
Assistant Director - Loretta Concannon
Producer - Stella Turner
Stage Manager - Trevor Clark
Deputy Stage Manager - Juliet Alexander
Fight Choreography - Tom Jordan
Set Construction - Graham Gibbs & Dudley Gentle
Stage Crew - Phill Carroll
Sound & Audio-Visual - Francis Tinney
Prompt - Rosie Hamilton McLeod
Front of House - Janet Takley, Nikki Clark, Barbara Robertson & Victoria Turner
Lighting - Paul Turner & Peter Johnson
Props - Rebecca Turner
Makeup - Nicola Stammers
Costumes - Valmai Guess & Stella Turner
Publicity - Chris Carrell
Bar Manager - Ed Picken
Box Office - Stella Turner
Website - Dave Woodward
Poster Design - Lottie Jungreuthmayer
Programme Design - Sarah Oliver
Photography - Dave Tinney & Rupert Hennan
Fencing - M & J Engineers Ltd
Curtains - Nicola Stammers

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