If you would consider the true cause

A message from the director

My day job is taking shortened versions of Shakespeare’s plays to high schools around Victoria, as an aid to education and an introduction for secondary students to Shakespeare’s words in performance. Yes, I get paid to do this. Yes, my job is pretty excellent.

One of the greatest parts of the job is that after every show we spend around half an hour taking questions from the students about the work that we do – sometimes about acting, sometimes about Shakespeare. Sometimes about whether it’s awkward to kiss another man. We play Romeo and Juliet traditionally.

One of the most common questions is – Why is Shakespeare still important? Why do the stories told in London 400 years ago matter?

Now that’s an easy one.

Leaving aside the exceptional vocabulary, the unparalleled poetry, the matchless invention and incredible depth of imagery – which in itself is enough to qualify Shakespeare as the greatest dramatist the English language has ever seen – his stories are of that very special brand of theatre that tell us, not just a story, but a little more about who we are.

They describe the human condition.

Romeo & Juliet describes love in its’ many forms; Macbeth is a portrait of the dark potential in every person, as well as an exceptional description of madness by modern psychiatric standards; Hamlet quite potently shows us what grief is; and Julius Caesar depicts a government of uncertainty, instability and betrayal.

These are situations we recognise.

The text comments on our contemporary political events through an innate understanding of how humans work with and respond to power. The carefully drawn relationships reveal several perspectives of political life and the dangers of each course of thought – the moral opposed to the corruptible; the brutish and the meek weighed against each other.

These comparisons pose an interesting question – who is the villain of the piece? And who is the hero? We could claim that, seeing as the play is named after him, Julius Caesar is the protagonist. Except that (SPOILERS) he dies halfway through and his play continues almost without him in it.

Cassius, Brutus, Antony – the narrative follows all these men, and we could paint all three as heroes or villains. They embody the best and the worst of mankind in their working towards the betterment of Rome, but none are entirely appealing or abhorrent. It seems that political life can lead to questionable courses of action to attain your goals.

These are men that we should recognise.

Less obvious in the text, but just as present, is a comment on the power of ideology. It is words that change the Roman world, words that sway the populace and words that cause leaders to rise and fall. Words were the weapons of Shakespeare’s stage – they always were and always will be mightier than swords.

And once the words are out there, you can’t pull them back.

Our recent election was won by words, true and false. Democracy is about shaping the words to our will and using them against our opposition. But when the words are disconnected from the cause – when the clever use of words is more important than why we use them – our moral aims are tarnished.

As Brutus muses, the abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.

All our characters act for the good of Rome, as we hope all our politicians work for the good of Australia, but in both cases there is danger in the corrupting allure of power and the abuse of greatness. And if both our leaders and our opposition are using their clever words to gain power without nobler cause, who do we follow?

Our Julius Caesar seeks not to tell you what has happened to our politicians, rather we hope to discover who our politicians truly are – and more importantly, why we should pay close attention to the way they wield their words.

For we are at the stake,
And bay’d about with many enemies;
And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,
Millions of mischiefs.

Julius Ceasar

Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion…

Now you know our cast, would you like to know what they’ve been doing?

As a new company with limited resources and time, we wanted to use both as effectively as possible, filling our textual understanding with a specific and shared knowledge of the world our characters inhabit. But how do we bring an understanding of what Rome means to the Romans into our contemporary setting? What will raise our performances to paint the world of conspiracy in the audience’s minds?

We take our performances to the world.

Meet our rehearsal room.

Are we all ready? What is now amiss that Caesar and his senate must redress?

The cast play the story in Federation Square.

After our basic text analysis was done our rehearsals took to the streets of Melbourne, lifting our classical understanding into contemporary context.

Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?

Cassius sways Brutus to conspiracy at the State Library of Victoria.

The city the Proper Villains love and call home is filled with architectural grandeur evoking ancient Rome, providing perspective and passion in an urban maze.

Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man most like this dreadful night

Cassius draws Casca in

We have walks and gardens like Rome, a sprawling river, bridges and arches – and enough corners and alleys to hide a dozen conspiracies.

What mean you Caesar? Think you to walk forth?

Calpurnia pleads with Caesar to stay at home, at the Ides of March

It seems everywhere we looked, Melbourne offered us a setting for our tragedy – never were those words truer: All the world’s a stage.

Gentlemen all, alas, what shall I say?

Antony confronts the assassins

We drew attention – often we invited it – and the stares of bystanders became a part of the world we will create every night in the Loading Dock at Revolt, a world that has showed itself startlingly similar to our own.

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?

Cassius points the finger

Today our political dissent is in the form of vocal protest, in petitions and rallies, we don’t kill for our ideals. But sometimes the death of an idea is as terrible and tragic a loss as the death of a leader. How often do we let our dreams die in the face of apparently insurmountable opposition.

The world we create is our own.

Julius Caesar

Et tu, Brute?

And now, the final nail in Caesar’s coffin – our Marcus Junius Brutus.

May the Proper Villains present, at the last, the smashing Seton Pollock.

Seton

A Graduate of NIDA, Seton makes his Melbourne debut with this production of Julius Caesar.

Whilst at NIDA Seton appeared in David Williamson’s Third World Blues, Gorky’s “Summerfolk” and as Pericles in William Shakespeare’s Pericles.

Staying in Sydney after graduating, Seton worked on “Kitty, Fifi and Jason Dale” in the 2010 Sydney Fringe Festival, and as Jack in Lord of the Flies at The New Theatre.

He’s now living in Melbourne, and is the final member of our cast you need to meet.

BUT WAIT, you cry, thinking back over these 8 posts…

What of Antony? and Octavius? Have we met them yet…and the other conspirators? Cinna the Poet? Who is cut and who remains?

To find that out, you’ll have to Book your tickets now!!

Kneel not, gentle Portia.

Coming down to the wire now, with 10 days until we preview. And so much more to tell you!

Our penultimate cast member, just recently returned to Melbourne from Sydney and Los Angeles, is the spectacular Hannah Pepper.

image

A graduate of WAAPA’s acting course, Hannah has spent her time moving between Los Angeles and Australia, where she has been involved in the creative development of both film and theatre productions.

She has worked alongside such actors as Peter Weller (Robo Cop) and Thomas Jane (HBO’s Hung) and director Shane Black (Iron Man 3).

She has recently returned to Melbourne to pursue her passion for the stage and in particular, Shakespeare.

We’re certainly glad she has, and you will be too! But only if you Book Now!!

Danger knows full well that Caesar is more dangerous than he.

And now, may the Proper Villains present the man our play is named for: General, Politician, Consul, Leader, Dictator – our Gaius Julius Caesar, the exceptional Christian Grant.

Christian

Christian started acting at the age of thirteen, after being forced to audition and “give it a go” by his mother.

During high school he appeared as Joe Byrne in Ned Kelly, Percy in Henry IV Part I and Ulysses in Troilus & Cressida. At the age of sixteen, Christian was asked to be a part of the Globe Shakespeare Company of Australia’s National Youth Production of Cymbeline, in which he played Belarius.

After graduating from high school Christian joined the youth theatre company Rough Hewn Theatre Troupe, where he appeared as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus in Jean Racine’s Phèdre, Peter Webster in A Spring Song and Macbeth in Macbeth.

Graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2012, his roles while studying included Vershinnin in Three Sisters, Baylor in A Lie of the Mind, Matthew in Daniel Keene’s Untitled Monologue, and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

Later this year, Christian will appear as the younger version of Duncan Ballins in the Rowan Woods directed ABC Telemovie The Broken Shore.

But before this, he has to die.

To see it happen, several times a week, Book your tickets for Julius Caesar now!!

A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March

16 days to go before Caesar hits the Fringe, 4 more cast members to meet.

Today we introduce to you the conspirator Trebonius and the mysterious Soothsayer, all wrapped up in the wonderful Jean Goodwin.

Jean

Jean is a graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts Bachelor of Dramatic Art(Acting). Prior to her studies at the VCA she graduated with an advanced diploma in Live Production and Theatre from the Southbank Institute, studied for 3 years at The Queensland Actors’ Playhouse, and in 2007, Jean moved to New York City to study at The New York Film Academy.

Jean played Natella in the Forbici Ensemble’s 2009 Australian tour of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and at the VCA her credits include Helen of Troy in The Trojan Women, Olga in The Three Sisters, Sister Aloysius in Doubt, Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Die Alter in A Bright Room Called Day.

Jean was the 2011 recipient of the Richard Pratt Bursary for achievements and excellence through out 3 years of actor training.

Since graduating Jean has appeared in We Are Perpendicular by Emily Stewart, and again as Portia in the MUSC Shakespeare Company’s The Merchant Of Venice.

For a front row seat to the soothsayer, the conspiracy, and more political intrigue than the whole of election 2013, book your tickets for The Proper Villains’ Julius Caesar now!

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/julius-caesar/

But what of Cicero? Shall we sound him?

Hello again.

If you’ve been paying attention – and we like to think you have* – you’ll know that with one more cast member you’ll have met half of us.

And here that full half is!

The Proper Villains now gladly throw in your face, taking on the dual roles of Cicero and Metellus Cimber, the superb Tom Heath!

Tom

A graduate of the VCA, Tom comes to theatre from a musical background, appearing in Opera Australia’s children’s chorus Carmen, Orpheus in the Underworld and Otello.

Tom’s roles at VCA include Agamemnon in Agamemnon, Kulygin in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Father Flynn in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, Oliver, Corin and William in Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Kynaston in Jeffery Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty.

Tom was the 2011 recipient of the Richard Pratt bursaries for achievements in the First and Second Years.

This year Tom devised and performed the role of Man, in a piece called We are Perpendicular for the Canberra festival You Are Here in 2013.

To see Tom take on the Roman Senate, book your tickets for Julius Caesar here – http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/julius-caesar/

*If you have been paying attention, you’ll also have noticed that all the characters we have introduced so far have names beginning with C…..Coincidence? Perhaps. But will we ever have a character whose name doesn’t begin with C? Stay tuned to find out…