Shakespeare in the Park: Brutus’s Honour, Patriotism and Friendship

Repercussion Theatre Cast of Julius Caesar. ©StudioBaronPhoto-2 Repercussion Theatre Cast of Julius Caesar. Photo credit Studio Baron

The history of Julius Caesar is more widely known than any Roman emperor. Even before William Shakespeare wrote a play about this Roman hero, Caesar was identified with the ideas of complete and unflinching control and authority. Repercussion Theatre’s annual foray into staging Shakespeare in the Park in Montreal brings us the Bard’s Julius Caesar. But this is not just any adaptation of the great tragedy. This historical tragedy has no male players and is presented with an all-female cast. The final product was riveting! Who knew in the 1500’s when men ‘played’ all female roles, as women were not allowed to be on stage, that hundreds of years and some evolution later, we would have a woman as Caesar.

The opening night was set in an uncanny spot, staged on the grounds of the Mont Royal Cemetery and for the faint hearted, the surrounding tomb stones only spelt dread, anticipating that the protagonist would be stabbed and that blood would flow.

The play brought some formidable rhetoric and theatrical intrigue, as nationalism,
honour, friendship, love and betrayal played hop-scotch with each other. Fluid direction was handled by Amanda Kellock.

This adaptation has Brutus front and center and explores his point of departure to the hilt, starting when he begins to plot Caesar’s murder, following through to when the act happens and finally his fall from grace and his life. Actor Deena Aziz plays Brutus to one of the best performances of Brutus I have ever seen. Aziz owns the role and plays with poise, emotion and sublimity. Her delivery and moderated stage presence is on point and very purposeful. This is true to Shakespeare’s text where Brutus is the focus, along with his battles of honour, patriotism and friendship.

After a longish first half, where the act is done and all of Rome is on the verge of erupting following Caesar’s murder, the second half explores the Cassius-Brutus relationship. I wasn’t very happy with the perspective because I saw a hierarchy develop between the two which seemed contrived and not true to their characters. Cassius (played by Danette McKay) is the perpetual conspirator and Brutus, who turns from his alter-ego executor to being wronged, slighted and belittled by the latter.

Kudos to the entire troupe of actors who move between roles, while actor Donnub Jafarzdeh’s (playing Marulus/ Young Cato) sharp-tongued oratory shines through.

The director props up a platform for drums and music that provides some interesting vibes to the whole presentation. I thoroughly enjoy the use of actors shouting from surrounding spaces, the circumference of the stage, playing out the public mood and the common man’s engagement.

Julius Caesar is being performed in different parts of the city till the end of the month. Schedule HERE.