Review: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (UC Follies)

UC Follies’ modern take on the classic Shakespearean play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is playing al fresco at Toronto’s University College Quad

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (UC Follies) is a production of one of William Shakespeare’s most well known plays. The tragedy is based on the true events of the classical empire of Rome, in which the dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of senators.

I would apologize for the spoiler, but this play has been public for a while and ancient Roman history has been public for longer. I found that knowing the answers ahead of time didn’t ruin the experience of the play. The enjoyment doesn’t begin with knowing how the play ends, but seeing how the play reaches the end. The UC Follies took the same old story and made it new.

Director Deborah Lim made many unique artistic choices that suited the essence of the play. Drums played behind the scenes, echoing throughout the quad. The sounds were meaningful throughout the play, reflecting the sounds of thunder, war drums, and the beating hearts of the guilty and afraid.

Another clever choice was the presence, as well as absence of props. During the ultimate moment of betrayal, Julius Caesar is stabbed by the senators. Though the cast had prop daggers, the swords were invisible during this scene. The lack of visibility adds to the sense of betrayal and complicates the implications of guilt. It asks the question: What really killed Julius Caesar?

I knew the production was fond of artistic experimentation, but some of the experimentation felt forced, as if it was used for extra credit. For instance, a puppet was used to warn Julius Caesar about the Ides of March. Puppets are welcome in comedies, but are strange to see in tragedies. Like a child in a nightclub, I felt like the puppet didn’t belong.

In the end, I have to give kudos to the cast for their commitment to the play. The play is performed outside in the quad, unless it rains, and it was freezing last night. The cast went through the long performance in nothing but light togas and for some unfortunate souls, small unitards. I was shivering from cold, so I was incredibly impressed with the attitude of the cast.

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is playing outside in the University College Quad. It’s BYOB, which is not what you would assume : Bring Your Own Blankets. I would also recommend warms sweaters, mittens, hot cocoa, and maybe a special someone to snuggle with. I know it’s not the most romantic play, but you might need the extra warmth.

Details:

  • The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (UC Follies) is playing at the UC Quad, 15 King’s College Circle.
  • The show runs September Saturday 14th, 19 – 21st at 7:30 pm
  • Adult tickets are $10, students and senior tickets are $8. Buy tickets online, call the box office 416-978-8849 or buy at the venue. Group rates available in person or by phone for 8 or more people.

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