Robert Hastie began his career as The Crucible’s Artistic Director by continuing the theatre’s commitment to staging high-quality productions of some of Shakespeare’s most revered plays. 

With politics at its heart, Julius Caesar is a play in fashion in theatres across world as it deals with a complex political landscape where the lines between charisma and tyranny, and altruism and betrayal, are blurred. Although in this version a modern context was merely alluded to, most noticeably through the costumes, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to draw parallels between the relevance of the power of individuals in Ancient Rome and the global political landscape in 2017.

Bringing the seven hills of Rome to the seven hills of Sheffield, The Crucible’s well-engineered performance of Julius Caesar was engaging and thought-provoking, clearly elucidating and developing a full cast of characters’ personalities and beliefs in a play that, despite its namesake, chooses not to focus on a singular lead role. 

Samuel West was my pick of a strong cast who had clearly invested the time to really get to grips with their characters’ traits and motives. West’s measured portrayal of Brutus was believable and almost endearing, as the audience witnessed first-hand how Cassius (Zoe Waites) influenced the confused struggle between his love for Caesar and his love for Rome, and how words tipped a man defined by his honour into betraying his friend and having his beloved city turn against him.   

Elliot Cowan also impressively grew into the character of Mark Anthony as the play developed, his emblazoned speech at Caesar’s funeral vividly sticking out as the most memorable scene of the evening. The decision to include the cast of onlookers amongst the audience paid off, as we almost had no choice but to be swallowed up in the mass hysteria expertly aroused by Anthony’s clever rhetoric. His dissection of Brutus was as masterful as his passion was infectious, and I had to restrain myself from cheering and jeering along with what later became a vicious mob on a quest for revenge. 

The set smoothly transitioned throughout, and complemented by persuasive audio-visual effects, we saw the stage reshaped convincingly from calm dining rooms to thunder storms in the street and unforgiving battle fields as we followed the downfall of those in power in Rome.

Julius Caesar is a complicated story, but the clarity and transparency of the speech and acting allowed the audience insight into the mindsets of the individuals, helping us understand the catalysts for the tragic events that occur in the play. The overall production was engrossing and impressive, and the theme of persuasive language corrupting morality and belief has certainly left me with some food for thought when applying it to a modern context. 

Phill James & Rory Jones