This May, Sheffield Theatre’s Artistic Director, Robert Hastie, brings William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to the Crucible as his inaugural production.
It’s your first production as Artistic Director, and you’ve opted for a play that I don’t think has ever been performed by the company before?
It’s certainly the first time at the Crucible, and indeed in living memory that Caesar has come to Sheffield Theatres.
Why this production at this time then?
This stage is so flexible, it does Shakespeare really, really well. When you think about the Roman plays, the Crucible looks and feels like the classical theatres of Shakespeare’s era did. It’s such a unique place. You can watch a play here and you know you’re always in the Crucible, but you never know which world you’ll be a part of within it.
In terms of the time, we wanted it to be a play about now, which felt like it was addressing things that we’re discussing at this very moment. We are living through extraordinary times, where the news cycle is refreshed daily and I want the play to feel like it comes off the front pages.
You’ve arranged a stellar cast, including returning Artistic Director Samuel West. How did that come about?
Sam West is one of our finest classical and politically engaged actors. So with the current angle we were going down, he has classical weight but can spot the modern parallels in the material as well. Also, this is a deceptively demanding space, you need a huge amount of technical experience and muscle to play a Shakespearean piece like this. We’re delighted to have Sam on board, as well as every other cast member.
Caesar is a historical play where Shakespeare’s work and historical record have blurred somewhat. Does that give you more or less freedom when adapting it?
To an extent. Actors roll up their sleeves to get into researching roles. If it’s useful we use it, if not we throw it away. Shakespeare picked and stole from historical details, but we have to be careful we’re doing the play he wrote, not the history he built it on.
How relevant are the themes of the play, that of friendship, trust and honour today?
It is relevant. It insists upon its own relevance. We actually have a Trump Jar for every time somebody makes a direct parallel.
What can audiences expect from the production?
We’re treating it as a political thriller, the HBO series was certainly one of our main influences in designing and creating the play. It’s a thriller, a play that taps into the horrors of modern day where omens and ghosts interact with political intrigue.
Buy tickets here: https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/julius-caesar/dates
Words: Phill James