Great Performances: Julius Ceasar

Great Performances: Julius Ceasar

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 9:00pm - 11:00pm

Pictured:Harriet Walter (Brutus) in Julius Caesar.

Credit: Courtesy of Helen Maybanks

Set in a women’s prison, Great Performances: Julius Caesar offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens. 

In this acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production directed Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron LadyMamma Mia!), Shakespeare’s famous discourse on power, loyalty and tragic idealism is heightened against the backdrop of female incarceration. Great Performances: Julius Caesar premieres Friday, March 29, 2019 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

The cast stars Tony Award-nominee Harriet Walter (Sense and SensibilityMary Stuart) as Brutus; Jackie Clune (Borderline) as Caesar; Martina Laird (“EastEnders”) as Cassius; Jade Anouka (“Cleaning Up”) as Mark Antony; Karen Dunbar as Casca; Clare Dunne as Portia and Octavius Caesar; Shiloh Coke as Cinna the Poet; Sheila Atim as Lucius; Leah Harvey as Soothsayer; Zainab Hasan as Calpurnia and Metellus Cimber; Jennifer Joseph as Trebonius; Carolina Valdés as Cinna; and Sarah-Jane Dent, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty and Liv Spencer as guards.

The women play male inmates and guards: Brutus wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony manipulates the crowd with subtle and incendiary rhetoric to create frenzied mob violence. Performed in-the-round and enhanced by a guerilla filming style on a mostly bare stage, Great Performances: Julius Caesar creates a unique perspective on Shakespeare’s tragedy. GoPros and a drone offer a stark reminder of the prison setting, and heavy metal music blasts to highlight the conflict on stage.

The production was the first of a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions at London’s Donmar Warehouse that The Guardian called “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years.” All three productions — Julius CaesarHenry IV and The Tempest â€” were set in a women’s prison, inspired by a creative collaboration between prisoners, actors and the production team in association with the theater company Clean Break and the York St. John University Prison Partnership Project.