The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

Various venues, Wellington

12/11/2011 - 28/11/2011

Production Details

Nothing much has changed in 2000 years of politics, and to make the point, award-winning theatre company The Bacchanals are proud to celebrate their eleventh birthday and the November election with a FREE touring production of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s classic tale of how a homeless man living in the central city predicts that a politician will be stabbed in the back by his closest friends, right after an important victory at an international sporting event and a massive earthquake! 

After defeating his former allies, Caesar returns home in triumph determined to establish himself supreme ruler of a society that believes in democracy over dictatorship.  As the conspiracy to remove Caesar from power develops, Brutus knows that Caesar cannot be trusted to lead the country, but also fears that his fellow conspirators are just as untrustworthy.  Is murdering his friend the only way to save his country?

The Bacchanals have always believed theatre should be accessible to all, regardless of geography and economy, so throughout November we’ll be performing Julius Caesar each night in a different community space somewhere near you.  All you need to do is turn up and we’ll do the rest: two hours of thrilling, exciting, intimate theatre with 13 of Wellington’s most fearless actors.  Bring a cushion with you, and chuck a few coins in a hat at the end so we can afford the bus home!

The Bacchanals present The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
With Kirsty Bruce, Dasha Fedchuk, Andrew Goddard, Alex Greig, Benjamin Haddock, Brianne Kerr, Salesi Le’ota, Jonny Potts, William O’Neil, Jean Sergent, Elle Wootton, Walter Plinge and Phil Grieve as Caesar, and directed by David Lawrence.

All performances at 7pm.
Saturday 12 November – St Peter’s, Paekakariki
Monday 14 November – Makara Community Hall
Wednesday 16 November – St Jude’s, Lyall Bay
Friday 18 November – Tararua Tramping Clubrooms, Mt Victoria
Saturday 19 November – Island Bay Community Centre
Monday 21 November – Newtown Community Centre
Tuesday 22 November – Hataitai Bowling Club
Wednesday 23 November – The Long Hall, Roseneath (13b Maida Vale Road)
Friday 25 November – Khandallah Town Hall
Saturday 26 November – Special Election Night show at Vogelmorn Hall, Brooklyn!
Monday 28 November – The Pit at BATS Theatre

(with more venues and dates to be added as November progresses! Want us to do a show in your living room? For more information, email or visit our website at 

Flavius a tribune of the people Andrew Goddard
Murellus another tribune of the people Jean Sergent
A Carpenter skiving off work to celebrate Caesar’s victory William O’Neil
A Cobbler also skiving off work Kirsty Bruce
Julius Caesar consul of Rome Phil Grieve
Calphurnia his third wife Brianne Kerr
Mark Antony friend to Caesar and triumvir after his death Jonny Potts
A Soothsayer Salesi Le’ota
Marcus Brutus a praetor Alex Greig
Caius Cassius instigator of the plot against Caesar Walter Plinge
Caska friend to Cassius and a conspirator against Caesar Salesi Le’ota
Cicero a famous Roman senator, orator and philosopher Benjamin Haddock
Cinna a conspirator against Caesar William O’Neil
Lucius servant to Brutus Dasha Fedchuk
Decius Brutus Caesar’s heir and a conspirator against Caesar Kirsty Bruce
Metellus Cimber a conspirator against Caesar Jean Sergent
Trebonius a conspirator against Caesar Benjamin Haddock
Portia wife to Brutus Elle Wootton
Caius Ligarius an elderly senator and a conspirator against Caesar Andrew Goddard
Servant to Caesar Salesi Le’ota
Artemidorus a poet and doctor of rhetoric Brianne Kerr
Publius a senator Dasha Fedchuk
Popilius Lena a senator Andrew Goddard
Servant to Mark Antony Elle Wootton
Servant to Octavius Caesar Brianne Kerr
Cinna the Poet not to be confused with Cinna the conspirator Benjamin Haddock
Octavius Caesar great-nephew to Caesar, triumvir after Caesar’s death Andrew Goddard
Aemilius Lepidus triumvir after Caesar’s death Elle Wootton
Lucilius an officer in Brutus’ army Kirsty Bruce
Titinius an officer in Cassius’ army William O’Neil
Pindarus a slave serving Cassius Elle Wootton
Messala friend to Brutus and Cassius Salesi Le’ota
Varrus & Claudius soldiers in Brutus’ army Jean Sergent, Benjamin Haddock
Young Cato Brutus’ brother in law Jean Sergent
Clitus a soldier serving Brutus Brianne Kerr
Dardanius another soldier serving Brutus Dasha Fedchuk
Volumnius another soldier serving Brutus Benjamin Haddock
Strato a slave serving Brutus Phil Grieve
Tribunes, Commoners, Plebeians, Senators, Messengers, Servants, Soldiers played by members of the company      

Nothing could be more immediately relevant

Review by John Smythe 17th Nov 2011

“Nothing much has changed in 2000 years of politics,” claims the media release, and we only have to look at the news over the past few months to prove that’s absolutely true in Rome (vale Berlusconi) and pretty well everywhere else in Europe. And the Middle East. Australia and New Zealand are also ruthless with their leaders.  

Of course the blood-baths of yore have given way to more subtle tactics nowadays, for us at least – e.g. the ongoing ‘storm in a teacup’ involving speculation that John Key and John Banks are conspiring to depose ‘strange fellow’ Don Brash from the leadership of the Act Party and install party president Catherine Isaac, if the populous is mad enough to buy the Epsom ‘match-fixing’ rort and if National needs to do a coalition deal with the party no-one wants to vote for.  

As may be the case with Don Brash (who ruthlessly deposed Bill English as leader of the National party then, when ousted himself, went on to roll Rodney Hide as leader of the Act party), Julius Caesar gets done as he did, having returned in triumph from a victorious war against his former ally, Pompey. But it seems Caesar’s crime now is that he wants to give rights to the poor and oppressed rather than favour the rich and elite. Or is the vice versa?

The propaganda campaign that aligns the conspirators and then the people is so riddled with lies, half-truths, sly innuendo and appeals to self-interest that we might just as well have dropped into an election candidates’ campaign meeting at our local hall.

Obviously The Bacchanals’ decision to mount a ‘no budget’ The Tragedy of Julius Caesar – at a series of suburban halls, ‘free’ (with a koha appreciated to help cover the rent of the hall) – during this year’s election campaign is inspired.

Julius Caesar completes an impressive year of political theatre in Wellington by NZ playwrights, including James Nokise’s Public Service Announcements, The Engine Room by Ralph McCubbin Howell *, Meet The Churchills by Paul Baker* – and (just two and a half moths ago) The Bacchanals’ production of Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Dean Parker *, which explored the same themes in dramatising the political rise and fall of Sir Robert Muldoon. (Parker also adapted Nicky Hager’s The Hollow Men, in 2007, depicting the rise and demise of Brash as National’s leader – NZ politics offers no end of opportunities, it sems).  

A couple of rows of chairs face each other, the Bacchanals ‘arras’ hangs at one end to create a sort of ‘backstage’ space, and that’s it for ‘production values’.  Whatever else the night’s venue offers may or may not be utilised – although a cup of tea at interval is pretty well guaranteed (a gesture which has suddenly gained unintended overtones – or do I mean undertones).

The cast hang about outside and inside to greet us, Jean Sergent strolls about strumming a guitar and singing a song, ebullient director David Lawrence * welcomes us, the players introduce themselves and say who they’re playing …. Then, in total contrast to the super-laid-back style, the play begins with a fully-focused simplicity.

As at this third outing (in Lyall Bay, last night), the entire ensemble articulates the remarkably textured drama with alacrity, be they playing crowd scenes, bit parts, supporting roles or leads. They employ minimal changes of clothing to denote their different characters, venturing no further into literal character or status designations than a suit jacket and maybe a tie for the ruling classes, down-market street clothes for ‘the people’, hoodies for the conspirators and red or blue sashes for the battling factions in the final showdown.

In the wake of his formidable Muldoon, Phil Grieve * brings a mana to Caesar that demands we keep evaluating whether or not he’s a tyrant or a true ‘man of the people’. Each moment is deeply rooted in a subjective truth we cannot help but recognise. In saying he is an actor of integrity I hasten to add, so are they all, all actors of integrity. And it is the way they integrate with the text that brings the play alive so vividly.

Alex Greig * as Brutus and David Lawrence (who likes to call himself ‘Walter Plinge’ when he’s acting) as Cassius also command ambivalence in our responses to their characters’ actions and their rationales. At the top of their games in all their scenes, their private moments together are especially compelling (and here we must thank Shakespeare for making us privy to what, these days, may have been kept from us under the guise of a police investigation).  

As Mark Antony, Jonny Potts takes his cue from the claim that he (unlike Brutus) is no orator and so brings unadorned sincerity to the role. His responses to the swiftly-changing political tides are so authentic that we have to study him hard for any hint that he may actually be consciously strategising to outwit his foes.  

In Calphurnia, Brianne Kerr finds the same loyalty and determined concern for her husband’s wellbeing that she did as Thea Muldoon, then contrasts it with a range of contrasting and often comic roles.  

Elle Wooton’s Portia is a very different kind of wife (to Brutus). She, Kirsty Bruce, Jean Sergent, Dasha Fedchuk, Salesi Le’ota, Andrew Goddard, Benjamin Haddock and William O’Neil, in their many and varied roles, take and/or share the stage whenever they should to keep the story unfolding. All have moments of strength and power, and team-work generosity, meeting the demands of drama and comedy without the slightest hint of ego.  

One of the most insightful, engaging and entertaining elements of this production is the manifestation of malleable public opinion as the political manipulators ply their skills all-too-effectively. As election day draws near, all who observe cannot help but see themselves in this drama.  

The swords, daggers and knives, by the way, are mimed yet the fights are visceral and the deaths are emotionally affecting: that’s another mark of how very good The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is.  

Click on the title above to find out when it is playing near you. Nothing could be more immediately relevant. 

*All these people have been nominated for Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards this year.


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