Did Julius Caesar trip up?
Last week the husband and I motored to Stratford, to see the new RSC production of Julius Caesar directed by Lucy Bailey. I had written an essay for the programme, and asked for two tickets as part of the fee (it actually makes you go!).
Was it any good. Well, I guess I'm a bit biased -- but yes it was (some wonderful visuals and a brilliant Mark Antony in the shape of Darrell D'Silva, and some murders that really had me on the edge of my seat); with just a few 'buts'.
The trouble with any production of Julius Caesar is that you can't ever quite tell whether the problems with it are the fault of the play or of the production. I suspect that I'm being very unsophisticated here, but I've never found the last two acts of the play, where we see the assassins of Caesar themselves get slaughtered (by their own hands), at all gripping. After Cinna the poet has been killed, I find I couldn't care very much about how the noblest Roman of them all actually dies. Basically I know what happens at the battle of Philippi, but don't feel too curious about exactly how Shakespeare presents it.
But then last week there was the question of whether this Julius Caesar (Greg Hicks) had intentionally, or unintentionally, tripped on his toga just before his assassination.
The incident in question took place in the senate house in Act III. They had erected a natty little set of steps that Caesar was to walk up before he was murdered. As he did this, on the night we were there, he stumbled over his toga.
And so started a family (and literary-critical) dispute. The husband thought that he had stumbled accidentally. A theatrical nightmare for the actor, but nicely recovered. I tend to think that anything I see on stage is intentional -- and that the stumble was intended to symbolise the stumbling fragility of Caesar as he approached his end.
Needless to say, we couldn't agree. But as we had gone on the press night, we thought that the reviews of those scribbling in their notebooks all around us might reveal the truth (or at least back one of us up).
The trouble is that so far only Quentin Letts has pronounced on this, and he has come down on the husband's side: he tripped.
If anyone has seen this production on any other day than last Tuesday and noticed Caesar stumbling, please let me know.