Friday, January 4, 2013

Gregory Doran's African Setting of Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar. Dir. Gregory Doran. Perf. Segun Akingbola, Adjoa Andoh, Theo Ogundipe, and Mark Ebulue. 2012. DVD. Illuminations, 2012.

This film, available to UK markets (click here, for example) but not yet available in the US, intriguingly sets Julius Caesar in contemporary Africa. Although none of the things I've read about the production place it more specifically than that, I would hazard Nigeria as the country inspiring the setting—many of the actors' names are Nigerian, as are some of the accents.

Many of the film's scenes are enacted on the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage, but other scenes are shot in a studio—and the description the UK branch of Amazon gives notes that it was also filmed "on location." The result is an excellent mix of theatre and film. In other words, don't expect this to be merely a filmed version of a stage production. Even the camera work for the on-stage scenes is varied and impressive.

As a sample, here's part of the opening scene. After much ceremony and celebration, Julius Caesar gives instructions to Mark Antony that humiliate Calpurnia—after which, he hears the voice of the Soothsayer over the noise of the crowd.

I have not watched the entire film—I wanted to get some preliminary impressions out quickly—but I'm enormously impressed. I admire the choices regarding the Soothsayer: instead of a weak, old man—blind in some productions (e.g., Mankiewicz's)—this is a strong, powerful Soothsayer, not easily dismissed.

I hope this production will soon become more widely available. It's enormously enjoyable as a production of Julius Caesar, and its position in Global Shakespeares will provide a significant amount of food for thought.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click here to purchase the film from


e meritus prauf said...

Great scene! Superbly acted. No need for subtitles; the diction is crystal clear. Brilliant political adaptation. I think it's destined for greatness.

e meritus prauf said...

I'm intrigued, and looking forward eventually to viewing the whole play. If you embed another scene, would it be possible to lose the subtitles? They are too much of a distraction. The dialogue seems so natural in this adaptation. A cultural coup!

kj said...

Thanks, e meritus prauf. I agree that there is a political resonance to this setting that is enormously interesting.

Subtitles on this blog generally mean that I was trying to watch through something quickly. But they are distracting--especially in this instance. I'll try to alter them in due course.

Take care!


kj said...

Update: I've put up a slightly longer and subtitle-free clip.



e meritus prauf said...

Your second embed of the scene makes me all the more eager to see the whole play. Including a bit of the celebratory procession conveys a profound sense of place. And the dialogue unencumbered by the subtitles rolls along as though this was the English it was written for! Thanks for alerting Bardfilm fans to this great production.

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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