By Isaac Butler
I went on a bit of a twitter rampage this morning about the Donmar Warehouse production of Julius Caesar that's in an extended run at St. Ann's Warehouse right now in Brooklyn. I don't really have time to expand it into a review per se because of other writing projects, but you should read Mildly Bitter's thoughts on it, which I'm sympatico with.
In the meantime, because the critical consensus on the produciton is so rapturous, because I want to add my voice in supporting those who didn't care for it, because twitter is disposable and a weird place to post anything of length, and because I have no freaking clue how to use Storify, here is a lightly adapted transcript of those 17 tweets, turned into fourteen thoughts:
- This is the fundamental problem with the Donmar/St Ann's Julius Caesar: It makes no goddamn sense.
- And that's NOT because of the all-female cast. It's actually because it feels the need to create some kind fo frame to "Excuse" its casting.
- But JC never consistently follows the internal logic and rules of its frame. In fact, it can't even settle on what its frame ACTUALLY IS.
- Is JR set IN A PRISON or is it a performance BY PRISONERS? These concepts have COMPLETELY different rules and they carry different meanings.
- You can't just switch up which you're doing whenever you want. That makes a thematic hash out of the play.
- (This isn't even getting into the crushing literalism of either of those conceptual choices.)
- If it takes place in a prison, who is the audience? If it's by prisoners, why are they allowed to come into the house and threaten us?
- Where do the musical instruments come from? Or the super trendy British live video gestures?
- Every scene of JC feels like it was conceptualized and staged wihtout a mind to the broader production as a whole.
- Ex: Two scenes in act 1 are set in the same location. In one, the characters are worried about surveillance, in the other they literally yell about killing Caesar while he stands 15 feet away. So is surveilllance part of how power works in the show or not? Apparently, it doesn't matter!
- At its heart a concept for a production is a series of choices. These choices negate other choices and create rules.
- These rules are the box that actually, paradoxically enables creativity.
- Once kind of choice is to have a pastiche, a collage of moments that don't always literally cohere a la the St. Anns' Woyzeck
- But the pastiche option still much create a frame that allows it. Julius Caesar's framing is all super-literal.