As part of the RSC Open Stages project Southside Players presented Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on 15-18 February 2012 at Chestnut Grove School in Balham. The production was also performed as a one hour abridged performance as part of the RSC Open Stages Regional Showcase on 13th April at Questors Theatre in Ealing.
I have been writing my thoughts about directing this play on this blog and I also encouraged some of the cast, crew and creative team to put their thoughts down at the Southside Players’ blog: http://southsideplayers.wordpress.com/category/julius-caesar/
You can see a video of the crowd workshop here
Plus two vox-pop trailers – where we asked passers by and occupants of the St Paul’s Occupy the question ‘Do we live in a democracy?’
And the production got a tiny mention on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and featured a clip of Kate as Brutus in rehearsal: Today programme clip
See here for a Storify of all the tweets from the Friday night performance
See here for photos of the show
Time and Leisure article : http://www.timeandleisure.co.uk/whats-on/previews/1370-julius-caesar-with-tweets.html
Review by Chalk the Sun: http://chalkthesun.co.uk/?p=860
Background to the production
I began to think about Julius Caesar in the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 – originally imagining it as a promenade production around Westminster with people joining in and alerted to its existence by Twitter – in the same way that the political uprisings and unrest were using Twitter both as a communication tool and also as a news service. I was also inspired by Paul Mason’s blog “20 reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere” and in some ways that blog has become my guide to creating this production of Julius Casear.
The play is about regime change – it’s about upholding democracy by un-democratic means. A military tyrant is assassinated by a group of well-meaning democrats. It leaves a vacuum – into that vacuum steps another dictator. In the play public opinion is crucial – it raises Caesar to a new level of dictatorship, it is manipulated by Antony and Brutus creating civil war.
I wanted to capture for the audience the sense of being part of that public – of being actively engaged in the play (without having to leave their seats !). I also wanted to use my original idea of Twitter as a means of engaging people with the action of the play. This production will therefore have a live twitter feed projected onto the back wall of the stage area. The characters in the play will each (ideally) have a twitter account and will tweet responses to action in the play which may be happening both off-stage or on. Using a hash-tag the audience will also be encouraged to tweet their response. The tweets will be in ‘normal’ English and will be scripted for the characters at certain points in the play – this will also help those who struggle with Shakespeare’s English to get to grips with the plot and characters.
The venue for the production is a drama hall with raised seating on three sides, the set will be minimal – potentially just a central platform/rostra which can double as seating or an actual speaking platform, some chairs across the back wall of the stage. During any of the scenes that take place in public areas in the play the whole space will be lit, including the audience – the only part that will be dark will be the area of the back wall in order to facilitate the projection of the twitter feed. Actors will come in and out of the audience, potentially having scenes via mobile phones from their seats in the audience.
Southside Players is an amateur group that will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2012. Based in South London (originally in Clapham South and now in Balham) the group brings together people from a wide range of backgrounds to put on three main shows a year. There are also new writing nights and rehearsed play readings as well as purely social occasions such as parties and pub quizzes.
The group recently won a prestigious NODA award for their production of Dangerous Corner and the Noda Flame 2011 for productions of a ‘memorable and staggering stature’.
Southside Players pride themselves on breaking new ground and have had viral marketing campaigns for their last three productions – check them out on Facebook, YouTube and twitter.
RSC Open Stages
RSCOpen Stages is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
On the eve of the RSC’s 50th birthday year, the Company celebrates the central importance of amateur theatre in the cultural life of the UK as it launches RSC Open Stages, an unprecedented collaboration with eight regional/national theatres and organisations representing amateurs from across the UK.
The RSC has invited all amateur theatre groups in the UK to take part inRSCOpen Stages by performing their own Shakespeare themed production. It has joined with leading amateur theatre organisations and eight regional theatres across the UK to share skills and showcase RSC Open Stages amateur productions RSC Open Stages culminates in a national showcase of amateur performances at theRSC’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon to coincide with the World Shakespeare Festival in 2012
RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd said of the project;
“There are over 5,000 amateur theatre groups in the UK, with over a million people taking part each year. Theatre is definitely alive and kicking and it seems madness to ignore the passion and creativity on our doorstep without harnessing it. Open Stages is slap bang in the middle of our ambitions to connect people with Shakespeare and celebrate live theatre. I want the RSC to lead a step change in the relationship between professional theatre and the amateur sector; to celebrate its rich traditions, open our doors to its work and collaborate with partners nationally to leave a significant legacy. We have achieved such a change in our relationship with schools and teachers, with an extraordinary increase in the quantity and quality of collaborative work on Shakespeare with young people over the last 20 years. It’s time to make the same offer of collaboration to all those adults who share our obsession with live theatre.”
For updated information on the project visit www.rsc.org.uk/openstages
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esmée. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK.
The foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK both now and in the future. It funds the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better and likes to consider work which others may find hard to fund, perhaps because it breaks new ground, appears too risky, requires core funding, or needs a more unusual form of financial help such as a loan. It also takes initiatives where new thinking is required or where there are important unexplored opportunities. The foundation aims to commit £25 million annually towards a wide range of work. Its primary interests are in the UK’s cultural life, education and learning, the natural environment and enabling disadvantaged people to participate more fully in society.