Julius Caesar is the latest of Shakespeare’s works to be given the Bard in the Botanics treatment - staged in the verdant settings of the Kibble Palace hothouse and performed by a uniformly excellent cast of four.
While the production is necessarily sparse in design, it has a depth of ambition which impresses. From the opening moments the small audience become complicit in the action; urged to hail or decry each political advancement, while sharing handshakes and murderous glances with the protagonists.
The heart of director Jennifer Dick’s vision is the relationship between Brutus, whose quest for the common good leads to his ultimate demise, and the more calculating Cassia - a female version of the original text’s Cassius. The switch of gender actually makes little difference to the play, other than allowing the talented Nicole Cooper to revel in the multi-layered role alongside Paul Cunningham’s well drawn ever-honourable Brutus.
The duo’s assasination of an ailing Caesar (played with ever-deepening desperation by Tim Barrow) is followed by the resulting political and military battles between them and the loyalist Mark Anthony.
The cast, wearing sharp suits, are redolent of a group of modern politicians vying for power with their ever-present PR and spin - most obviously in Anthony’s ‘Friends, Romans and Countrymen’ speech. Kirk Barge delivers the famous lines with relish, convincingly turning the masses against Caesar’s conspirators with devastating rhetoric paired with a glint of humour.
A terrific version of a timeless play.
Julius Caesar runs at Glasgow Botanic Gardens until July 27.