Review: Imperium II – Dictator, Gielgud Theatre

In which Imperium II: Dictator continues a compelling look at (Roman) politics at the Gielgud Theatre but in which I also feel obliged to point out just how male-heavy Imperium skews 

“We are at the mercy of the people of Rome”

Previously on Imperium

  • we enjoyed ourselves
  • we struggled to differentiate between the many names beginning with C
  • we puzzled at why people wore their togas with one bit draped impractically over a forearm
  • we marvelled at how shiny everyone’s leather sandals seemed to be
  • and we grieved at how woefully the wonderful Siobhán Redmond was underused, at how indeed the whole production treats women

The second part of this summer’s Roman epic – Imperium II: Dictator – continues much in the same vein as the first. Mike Poulton’s adaptation capturing much of the sweeping vistas of Robert Harris’ Cicero novels, and Richard McCabe excelling as that noble Cicero who increasingly reveals himself as all-too–hubristically-human.  

But as we reach the seventh hour of drama in this testosterone-heavy world, you can’t help but feel that the women, both of the time and of this company, are relatively hard done by. Between the male gaze of Harris to Poulton to Doran to McCabe, the relentless focus on the political over the personal doesn’t give us much sense of Cicero the man versus Cicero the politician. Continue reading “Review: Imperium II – Dictator, Gielgud Theatre”

Review: Imperium I – Conspirator, Gielgud Theatre

Imperium I: Conspirator is the entertaining first part of the seven hours of a proper Roman epic from the RSC (thankfully with air-con in the Gielgud Theatre)

“Stupid people tend to vote for stupid people”

With the weather as it is, there are worse ways to spend a day in London than in the blissfully air-conditioned Gielgud Theatre. There, you can partake in the near seven hours of the two-part theatrical extravaganza that is Imperium. First seen at the RSC last winter, Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Robert Harris’ Cicero novels have a suitably epic feel to them and, anchored by an excellent lead performance from Richard McCabe, also have a real thrill factor.

The first part – Imperium I: Conspirator – follows Roman consul Cicero’s valiant efforts to defend the republic and the rule of law against rebellion and rivalries. And in the hands of McCabe, his silky rhetoric is a joy to behold as he secures his primacy, relying on political manipulation where necessary. Whether defeating Joe Dixon’s Catiline, trying to outmanoeuvre Nicholas Armfield’s slippery Clodius or pin down the wildly ambitious young buck named Julius Caesar (a superb Peter de Jersey), his actions are gripping.  Continue reading “Review: Imperium I – Conspirator, Gielgud Theatre”

Review: The Window / Blank Pages, Hope Theatre

“I expect you to tell me what you can see”

Frank Marcus’ best-known play The Killing of Sister George will soon be revived at the London Theatre Workshop over Fulham way but right now, there’s a chance to see the first UK revival of two of his short plays at the Hope Theatre on Upper Street. And in a serendipitous turn of events, Mingled Yarn’s production is directed by Rafaella Marcus, the playwright’s granddaughter, who selected The Window and Blank Pages to present in this double bill.

In Rūta Irbīte’s elegant, existentially vague timber-framed set, Marcus Senior’s separate but interconnected tales of loneliness play out with a nigglingly insistent sense of claustrophobia, well cultivated by Marcus Junior’s astute direction. Both shorts delve into the lives of people caught in melancholy recollections of the past and how overindulgence thereof can make a prisoner of even the most outgoing of selves. Continue reading “Review: The Window / Blank Pages, Hope Theatre”