A LETTER FROM LONDON: Merrily We Roll Along, Privates on Parade, Constellations, Kiss Me, Kate and More

By Ruth Leon
03 Jan 2013

Harriet Walter as Brutus
Photo by Helen Maybanks

Saturday — The Donmar, never a theatre to shirk its revolutionary tendencies, is embarked on a very brave experiment. Shakespeare's most testosterone-laden history play, Julius Caesar, is being played by an all-female cast and directed by Phyllida Lloyd. It's something of a muddle-headed concept, in my view, but fascinating to see women being the warriors, the conspirators, the villains and the aggressors. Despite some amazing performances from Harriet Walter as Brutus and Jenny Jules as a vicious Cassius, it doesn't work for me because it argues with Shakespeare's original intention, to show men at their contentious worst and women, although equally contentious, do their arguing in a different way. The production adds an explanatory scene at beginning and end to explain why these women are behaving as men — because they're incarcerated in a women's jail and there are no men. In which case, it would seem to me, they'd just do another play. That's just me, I suppose. Other critics and audiences are loving it, and claiming that they are seeing the play anew.