Ides of March not so bad for young actors

First place for a Campion College troupe in the teacher-directed category at the Gisborne Shakespeare festival.

First place for a Campion College troupe in the teacher-directed category at the Gisborne Shakespeare festival.

HAIL, WILL TOON: A soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar to beware the ides of March in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar portended the ambitious Roman general’s murder but worked out well for Campion actor Will Toon (laying down), Danielle Hegarty (front row), Amy Campbell, Niamh Stratton, Inderpreet Bains, Rata Simperingham (back row) Lily Fitzgerald, Jane Baker, Jonty Brown and the troupe’s director, drama teacher Jol Sparks. Picture supplied

A potted version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which students performed selected scenes from the play has won a Campion College troupe first place in the teacher-directed category in the Gisborne Shakespeare festival.

Directed by drama teacher and film star Jol Sparks, the young actors’ 15 minute, winning performance of scenes from Julius Caesar earned them a place in the National Shakespeare Schools Production (NSSP).

The 10 students first performed the opening scene in which General Caesar, played by Will Toon, returns victorious from the battlefield to Rome. The students followed with a scene in which fellow senators, Cassius (played by Lily Fitzgerald) and Brutus (Jonty Brown) worry Caesar will accept offers to become emperor then segued into the murder scene in which Caesar is fatally stabbed. Among the conspirators were Cassius, a jealous general, and the politically savvy Brutus.

“Mr Sparks condensed the story to give context to how Caesar was murdered,” says Will.

“He wanted to show the story leading up to Caesar’s death.”

The director refined transitions between scenes to make the performance flow, says Jonty.

Some actors functioned as props. Niamh Stratton, who played errand boy Lucius, was among those who played burning torches and at one point became a regal seat.

“Two of us kneeled behind Will and two in front to make a four-person chair,” says Jonty.

By striking lion-like poses, the two warm props at Will’s feet made Caesar’s chair a stately seat.

Actor Amy Campbell was cast as a river, a road, part of the chair and part of the fountain that Caesar stands by shortly after his return and instructs Mark Antony not to skimp on public ceremony.

“Sir wanted some of us to be human props because of the limited space on stage,” says Will.

“It was cool because everyone was involved throughout the piece,” says Niamh.

The nine actors also made a circle around Will for the fatal knifing of Caesar.

“Caesar breaks out of the circle and falls on the floor to say ‘Et tu, Brute?’ (‘Even you, Brutus?’),” says Will.

Although Brutus was Caesar’s friend, he is not guilty for what he did, says Jonty.

“He had thought Caesar was ambitious and Rome was in danger but it was Cassius who spoke to that fear and pushed it along.”

If the Gisborne actors are successful at the University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare nationals in June, they will compete in the final Shakespeare showdown from which a troupe of 24 will be chosen to workshop and perform at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London next year.

A potted version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which students performed selected scenes from the play has won a Campion College troupe first place in the teacher-directed category in the Gisborne Shakespeare festival.

Directed by drama teacher and film star Jol Sparks, the young actors’ 15 minute, winning performance of scenes from Julius Caesar earned them a place in the National Shakespeare Schools Production (NSSP).

The 10 students first performed the opening scene in which General Caesar, played by Will Toon, returns victorious from the battlefield to Rome. The students followed with a scene in which fellow senators, Cassius (played by Lily Fitzgerald) and Brutus (Jonty Brown) worry Caesar will accept offers to become emperor then segued into the murder scene in which Caesar is fatally stabbed. Among the conspirators were Cassius, a jealous general, and the politically savvy Brutus.

“Mr Sparks condensed the story to give context to how Caesar was murdered,” says Will.

“He wanted to show the story leading up to Caesar’s death.”

The director refined transitions between scenes to make the performance flow, says Jonty.

Some actors functioned as props. Niamh Stratton, who played errand boy Lucius, was among those who played burning torches and at one point became a regal seat.

“Two of us kneeled behind Will and two in front to make a four-person chair,” says Jonty.

By striking lion-like poses, the two warm props at Will’s feet made Caesar’s chair a stately seat.

Actor Amy Campbell was cast as a river, a road, part of the chair and part of the fountain that Caesar stands by shortly after his return and instructs Mark Antony not to skimp on public ceremony.

“Sir wanted some of us to be human props because of the limited space on stage,” says Will.

“It was cool because everyone was involved throughout the piece,” says Niamh.

The nine actors also made a circle around Will for the fatal knifing of Caesar.

“Caesar breaks out of the circle and falls on the floor to say ‘Et tu, Brute?’ (‘Even you, Brutus?’),” says Will.

Although Brutus was Caesar’s friend, he is not guilty for what he did, says Jonty.

“He had thought Caesar was ambitious and Rome was in danger but it was Cassius who spoke to that fear and pushed it along.”

If the Gisborne actors are successful at the University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare nationals in June, they will compete in the final Shakespeare showdown from which a troupe of 24 will be chosen to workshop and perform at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London next year.

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