A multisensory surgical dissection of Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar" by the Italy-based Socà¬etas Raffaello Sanzio. This iconoclastic, circus sideshow-like troupe ' headed by Romeo Castellucci ' literally sparks violent suicidal urges.
What Castellucci set out to achieve ' to make the audience feel as unsettled as the citizens of the impending Fall of the Roman Empire.
The 21-year-old performance collective of Socà¬etas Raffaello Sanzio actually created "Giulio Cesare" in 1997.
Castellucci is certainly not interested in presenting the multimedia performance-art version of "Julius Caesar." Instead, he gets inside the essence of the play’s central themes of ambition, fickleness of the masses and the fact that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The downfall of civilization is at the core of this theatrical nightmare. And Castellucci goes to extremes to invert the corroded underbelly of a society headed for annihilation.
He is known to employ actors with abnormal physiques. Here an obese man, an anorexic woman, an elderly man with what appears to be a bone disorder and a speaker with a tracheotomy enact a deliberately disturbing oration on the power and failure of persuasion. The show dares to open with an actor shoving an endoscope down his throat and speaking while his vibrating larynx is projected behind him.
He captures an authentic and decidedly non-romanticized Roman aura, right down to the faint musty smell of damp terra cotta.
Castellucci also visually parallels both J.C.’s ' Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ ' via a floating neon cross and chants, as well as one strange recreation of Mary Magdalene wiping Caesar’s/Christ’s feet with her hair. An image of old dusty shoes piled high on stage is meant to represent the plebians, but it also sparks devastating images of the Holocaust. Meanwhile, we are assaulted by the dull whir of ambient sounds ' a train roaring, dogs yelping, children laughing, women screaming. The distorted and chronic shapes and sounds slowly prove how history continues to repeat itself.
A real horse is escorted on the stage, and an actor paints strange letters on the visibly perturbed animal. Later, a horse’s skeleton is wheeled in during the apocalyptic second act, which is shrouded in sooty and silvery industrial detritus. In other parts, lightbulbs sway and explode; Brutus speaks after sucking in helium; a stuffed cat spins its head "Exorcist"-like; and one gets the sense that everything (including text and spoken language) are getting stripped bare.
But "Giulio Cesare," featuring the anorexic alter egos of Brutus and Cassius in Act Two to no doubt illustrate their fragility, crumbles into a grotesque stasis.