Imperium II: Dictator at the Gielgud Theatre
Adapted by Mike Poulton from historical thriller The Cicero Trilogy by Robert Harris, Imperium II: Dictator, directed by Gregory Doran, is the riveting second part of this intriguing Imperium series created by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Playful Productions.
Amid complete upheaval in Rome, Cicero battles for power in the Senate, fighting Julius Caesar’s legions, in a struggle of democracy against tyranny. Caesar has become an oppressive overlord, and is then assassinated – which is followed by negotiations with Cicero by activists, civilian riots and military intervention (while Anthony and Octavian are vying for control). A maelstrom of political manoeuvers, treachery, double-dealing and treason, the story is fascinating to the end.
Poulton’s reworking of Harris’s novel is no less than heroic in its effectiveness as a translation to theatre. It incorporates complexity of plot and characterisations into a seamlessly cohesive and entertaining production. The only drawback is its very long run time, although the play never fails to maintain interest.
This work is a narrative about men, and the female characters are, by comparison, insignificant. In light of the fact that the storyline parallels contemporary political strife, conversely it ignores gender parity. Women are merely secondary sidekicks in a world in which men rule and power for women is not only nonexistent, but any meaningful feminine word or opinion regarding the machinations of the civic landscape is never heard.
Performances are excellent: Richard McCabe is particularly top notch as Cicero, Joseph Kloska is superb as Tiro, and Peter de Jersey is a compelling Caesar. Stage design by Anthony Ward is innovative and impressively evocative as well as remarkably functional – scene transitions are nimble and fluid. Battle sequences are artfully choreographed. With its combination of graceful symphonic sound and blisteringly powerful percussion, the music is outstanding.
A well conceived interpretation of a Shakespearean theme, Imperium II: Dictator is intelligent, energetic, highly enjoyable theatre.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Imperium II: Dictator is at the Gielgud Theatre from 14th June until 8th September 2018. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for Imperium here: