for the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival at the Leatherhead Theatre. The chanting masses are celebrating Caesar’s victory in battle and his star is in the ascendency; even a timely warning from the soothsayer (Tom S) to ‘beware the Ides of March’ is ignored. Against a backdrop of black and red and modern day army fatigues, the narrators Lily H and Richard C eloquently guide us through this tale of ambition, betrayal and bloody battles.
Conducted by the narrators’ storytelling, Luke H’s confident Caesar is getting too big for his boots and Cassius, played by a conniving Ollie S, manages to plant the seed with Brutus, a fabulous Bea R, to plot his demise. As the storm rages overhead, omens, prophesies and dreams plague Rome and the household of Caesar. His wife, Calphurnia, (Maisie R) urges her husband to avoid the Senate, so frightened is she by the prophesies, but Decius (Freddie W) is able to play to Caesar’s weakness and his desire for power. The promise of a crown is all it takes to persuade him to join the conspirators at the Capitol.
As the Senate gathers, confusion is rife and just as Caesar claims he is the ‘brightest star in the sky’ he is stabbed, with Cassius and Brutus at the helm. As he falls, Luke H utters the immortal words, ‘Et tu, Brute?’ reminding us that it is his dear friend who has betrayed him. Far from winning over the people, they are thrown into turmoil, fuelled further by Mark Anthony’s famous funeral speech which rouses the people against the conspirators and prompts civil rebellion.
In fact, Brutus and Cassius are forced to flee their beloved Rome whilst Mark Anthony (Charlie P) joins forces with Octavius Caesar (Tory L) thereby strengthening his army. With the narrators pushing the story rapidly towards the climactic battle, Brutus and Cassius meet and their on stage tussle is acted out with great skill, with Brutus furious that Cassius has been accepting bribes, thus compromising their credibility. The clever interplay between the actors and the narrators is accompanied by equally ominous music. To make matters worse for Brutus, his friend Caesar appears ghostlike on the stage and his eerie female companions hint that things are unravelling for Brutus and Cassius. In keeping with Roman custom, they promise to put themselves to the sword should the worst happen.
The performance concludes on the battlefield at Philippi and although Brutus is overpowering Octavius, Cassius misreads the scene unfolding in front of him, and believing his friend Titinius (Oliver W) has been defeated, Ollie S falls on his sword. On seeing his friend dead, Titinius also kills himself, leaving Brutus with no choice but to join them. And so it is that Mark Anthony has the final word and, true to form, he praises Brutus on his death bed, claiming, ‘This was a man!’
Thanks has to go to all who worked so hard to bring this play to the stage; to Mr Waller and Mrs Awwad for their direction, Mr Dixon for the original music score and technical support, and to Mrs Everett for the costumes. This festival continues to challenge and excite the pupils and each year, their ability to deliver Shakespeare’s prose at such a young age cannot fail to impress.
Watch our short film with highlights below.