‘Shakespeare’s Africa play’

29th February 2012

The first day of the location shoot for our film version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new Julius Caesar is now just over seven weeks away. We have found our location and we are putting together our crew. BBC Four’s funding is in place and everything is moving forward in very exciting ways. The RSC have just released further details of the stage production, which is set (as is the film, of course) in modern-day Africa. The RSC’s release includes a great statement from our director Gregory Doran about his sense of the play. I have included that below, along with the full cast list.

Gregory Doran:

One of the inspirations behind setting Julius Caesar in Africa was discovering the Robben Island Shakespeare and that Nelson Mandela had chosen to autograph lines from the play, asserting that it spoke in a particular way to his continent. It also struck me that there must be some reason why Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, had translated the play into Swahili. The actor John Kani put it most succinctly when he told me that Julius Caesar was quite simply “Shakespeare’s Africa play”.

If you consider the history of the Continent since Independence over the last fifty or sixty years, it has witnessed a series of freedom fighters turned democratically elected Presidents, turned despotic rulers, who have pulled all the power to themselves in one party States. The fear of that tyranny has led to multiple military coups, assassinations and civil wars which continue to ravage the continent. Caesar could be Amin or Bokassa, Mobutu or Mugabe.

My first instinct was to set the play in a non-specific setting sometime in the last half century, definitely sub-Saharan – but of course History overtakes us. One of the urgent questions arising from the Arab Spring last year, was not would they get rid of Gaddafi, but what would replace him. This makes the second half of Julius Caesar, instead of frequently feeling a bit on an anticlimax, suddenly seem urgent and thrilling. Or that is what I hope will happen.

The cast for Julius Caesar is headed by Jeffery Kissoon as Julius Caesar, Paterson Joseph as Brutus and Cyril Nri as Cassius; with Ray Fearon as Mark Antony and Adjoa Andoh as Portia

The cast also includes:

Segun Akingbola (Trebonius), Mark Ebulue (Artemidorus), Ricky Fearon (Cicero/Lucilius), Andrew French (Decius Brutus), Marcus Griffiths (Marullus/Pindarus),Ivanno Jeremiah (Octavius), Samantha Lawson (Caesar’s servant),Simon Manyonda (Lucius), Joseph Mydell (Casca), Ann Ogbomo (Calpurnia),Theo Ogundipe (Soothsayer), Jude Owusu (Cinna the Poet), Mark Theodore (Metellus Cimber/Messala), Ewart James Walters (Caius Ligarus/Lepidus),Chinna Wodu as Cinna the Conspirator.

The production is designed by Michael Vale, with music composed by Akintayo Akinbode. Stage lighting is by Vince Herbert, and stage sound by Jonathan Ruddick. The Fight Director is Kev McCurdy, and the Associate Director is Gbolahan Obisesan.

Further details of who is on board for the film will follow, along with regular updates – and, inevitably, blogs from the location.

Image: a first century AD bust of Gaius Julius Caesar in the collection of the Altes Museum, Berlin, photographed by Gunnar Bach Pedersen and released by him as a public domain image. 


  1. Gurdeep says:

    The assassination of Julius Caesar was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, and I’m sorry to tell you that the wneasr can only be so simple. It does require a bit of back story; but to surmise for you the circumstances, the Republic had been increasingly unstable, with various violations of their separation of military and politics which ultimately doomed the Republic. The degrading political circumstances required a strong man and a strong administration, that was provided often by military or patrician leaders. While Rome itself was not in real danger at the time, the corrupt and inefficient system of the Republic had created more problems than it solved, leading most plebians to wish for a strong leader. Naturally the ruling elite bristled at this, holding to their republican ideals until the very end.

  1. […] statement, and much else about this project, is contained in several posts on the terrific Illuminations blog written by John Wyver who’s been involved in filming several of Greg’s productions […]

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