Where Julius Caesar meets Trump and Boris Johnson...

Icarus Theatre Collective are promising chilling resonances as they embark on their tour of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with dates including Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal on February 21-22.
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The production’s director Max Lewendel said: “Julius Caesar is a play which seems to come around in times when it is politically sensitive for it to do so. We had discussions as a company around what our next Shakespeare would be coming out of the pandemic and we wanted something that was big and bold and impressive. And then one of the team was talking about Julius Caesar feeling exactly like what is happening now with social media because it's all about rumours and gossip and fake news. And then actually when you look at the play, the more you look at Caesar, the more Trump-like and the more Boris Johnson-like Caesar seems to be. He took one of his senators and dumped a bucket of excrement on him. Julius Caesar pretended to be for the people and all about the people but the fact is that he didn't care the tiniest bit for the people.

“When we were in the middle of rehearsals, it was when Trump gave a speech about what was happening in the Supreme Court process and he was saying ‘I will take this for the people. I will take this for you all.’ But we all know that he doesn't care anything for anyone apart from himself. And the fact is that Julius Caesar was exactly the same. He was doing exactly the same thing. His driving force was power and once he got power he thought nothing of humiliating his senators and having his senators beaten up.”

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In the end the final straw was when Caesar withdrew one of the basic courtesies: “The senators would bring gifts to him because they're wanting to stay on his good side and it was customary for him to stand up while he was being given the gifts. But Caesar stopped standing for the senators and that’s what the final straw was, the withdrawing of that courtesy. They had had enough and so they killed him. And it's so bizarre that that was the final story in the end.

James Heatlie as Mark Antony (contributed pic)James Heatlie as Mark Antony (contributed pic)
James Heatlie as Mark Antony (contributed pic)

“But Julius Caesar tried to get away with so much. He was on a ten-year military campaign outside of Rome not because he was a military leader but because he was avoiding prosecution. And when he invaded the UK he made no progress at all but sent back an announcement to Rome that in the UK they're running scared and that he was coming back to Rome because they had run away and there was nothing more for him to do. But no. The truth was that they actually destroyed his army.

“But he was a good leader at times. He did conquer Gaul and in his last couple of years he did start to repair Rome. He was fixing the roads.

"He was making sure that the people got food but that wasn't a lot given that they were starving. Just giving them food so that they didn’t starve wasn't a big deal perhaps. They had had 20 years of civil war and having troops marching into sacred areas but in the end he was starting to do a few good things. But it's when he stopped being polite to the senators that did for him and was the final straw.”