Caligula and the Sea
The air in the Cavern at the Vaults is humid – an apt atmosphere for a play designed with the sea as the antagonist (or the hero?). Blue drapes and ruins make up the rest of the ambience for an indistinct setting: the narrative draws from Ancient Rome, but without years or historic elements specified, it is left to the audience to place these timeless discussions in their preferred timeframe.
Trapped on the island of Capri, young Caligula (Noah Silverstone) encounters and strikes an alliance with the sea god, Neptune (Riko Nakazono), who advises and encourages him in aid of achieving his dream of dominance by killing emperor Tiberius and ascending to the throne. But once he has reached the peak of power, he fails in his duty, and his mind is soon thrown into fears of persecution and imminent danger.
Caligula and the Sea is a neat and vivid fictional revisitation of the rumoured war waged by the emperor against the sea, brought by director Yuxuan Liu, one of the 2023 artists for Vault Five (the festival’s yearly mentoring programme). The show aims to present an account of the inherent motives that determined Caligula’s extravagances and the consequences of his ambition to rise to the level of a god. Famous for the horse-made-senator tale, the protagonist is no stranger to excesses; the production includes a fun musical moment expanding on this, but the second part could have developed these extremes. On the other hand, the origins and first signs of the boy’s aspirations are well timed in the script and delivered through engaging exchanges. The increasingly arrogant Caligula’s monologues (nicely light and effective in the wording) bring attention to the reasons behind the whole process.
The tortuous relationship between totalitarianism, freedom and hubris is exposed here in the evolution of a man’s story. As in classic literature, the ever-present deity is a vague element that fluctuates among spirits and events.
There is a playful synergy between Felix Ryder as Cassius Chaerea and Silverstone (as Caligula), with the latter delivering a spirited, poised performance. Their gestures and movements very much render the evolution of the drama. Some puppetry adds variety, whereas the choice of a white suit among the costumes is interesting for its instantaneous visual reference to the assertion of power.
Photo: Craig Fuller
Caligula and the Sea is on at the Vaults from 28th February until 5th March 2023.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.