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Arts & Culture

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Julius Caesar

The Trilogy company in a scene from "Julius Caesar." Set in a women’s prison, GREAT PERFORMANCES “Julius Caesar” offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens.
Courtesy of Helen Maybanks
The Trilogy company in a scene from "Julius Caesar." Set in a women’s prison, GREAT PERFORMANCES “Julius Caesar” offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens.

Stream now or tune in Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020 at 2 p.m. on KPBS 2

Currently available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport.

Set in a women’s prison, GREAT PERFORMANCES “Julius Caesar” offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens.

In this acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production directed Phyllida Lloyd (“The Iron Lady,” “Mamma Mia!”), Shakespeare’s famous discourse on power, loyalty and tragic idealism is heightened against the backdrop of female incarceration.

The cast stars Tony Award-nominee Harriet Walter ("Sense and Sensibility," "Mary Stuart") as Brutus; Jackie Clune (BORDERLINE) as Caesar; Martina Laird (EASTENDERS) as Cassius; Jade Anouka (CLEANING UP) as Mark Antony; Karen Dunbar as Casca; Clare Dunne as Portia and Octavius Caesar; Shiloh Coke as Cinna the Poet; Sheila Atim as Lucius; Leah Harvey as Soothsayer; Zainab Hasan as Calpurnia and Metellus Cimber; Jennifer Joseph as Trebonius; Carolina Valdés as Cinna; and Sarah-Jane Dent, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty and Liv Spencer as guards.

The all-female cast portray both male and female roles within the play.

Brutus wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony manipulates the crowd with subtle and incendiary rhetoric to create frenzied mob violence.

Performed in-the-round and enhanced by a guerilla filming style on a mostly bare stage, GREAT PERFORMANCES “Julius Caesar” creates a unique perspective on Shakespeare’s tragedy.

GoPros and a drone offer a stark reminder of the prison setting, and heavy metal music blasts to highlight the conflict on stage.

The production was the first of a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions at London’s Donmar Warehouse that The Guardian called “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years.”

All three productions — “Julius Caesar,” “Henry IV” and “The Tempest” — were set in a women’s prison, inspired by a creative collaboration between prisoners, actors and the production team in association with the theater company Clean Break and the York St. John University Prison Partnership Project.

Jade Anouka (Mark Antony) and Company in "Julius Caesar."
Courtesy of Helen Maybanks
Jade Anouka (Mark Antony) and Company in "Julius Caesar."

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Credits:

Produced by Kate Pakenham and John Wyver. GREAT PERFORMANCES is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.