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Julius Caesar: From stage to screen

Updated Friday, 22nd June 2012

Watch this exclusive video about the making of the BBC film version of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Julius Caesar 

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Julius Caesar: From stage to screen

[rehearsal for assassination scene]

Gregory Doran (director):
Alright guys, we haven’t got very long, so if we could just concentrate on this. The idea, insane as it is, is that we kill Caesar on the escalator. 

[interview]

John Wyver (producer):
The Royal Shakespeare Company is making a stage version of Julius Caesar this summer, which Gregory Doran, the new artistic director, has directed for the stage. We’re making a film in parallel with that stage production, which Greg is also directing, a film for BBC television which has exactly the same cast, the same costumes, props, and much of the same idea, setting and so forth, but which takes the stage production and places it in a location and shoots it like contemporary television drama.

[rehearsal for assassination scene]

Gregory Doran (director):
Could we, can I just for the moment put you here, Jeffery, here, and I think it will either be that step or the one above it. Don’t worry about the… this will all be cleaned tomorrow, for whenever we do it rather. Shall we just walk through the simple element of it?

Caesar:
‘Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?’

Casca:
‘Speak, hands, for me.

Caesar:
‘Et tu, Brute?’

Gregory Doran (director):
'Alright, I think that’s going to work.’

[interview]

Paterson Joseph (Brutus):
Having said that it was a great idea and all of that, the we rehearsed for three weeks in the rehearsal space in Clapham, in south London, for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, which is a big, big theatre. And then we came in to film, here, which is not a very big theatre, it’s a very, slightly strange environment, but it is not theatre, absolutely not theatre. So the thought was, before we got in to this, well how do we boil down what we’ve done, which is – You have to express yourself, you have to be physical, in the theatre, otherwise people don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t say, Look over there, because the audience won’t see where you’re looking. You have to say, Look over there [gestures], and point and do all that – and of course on camera that just looks huge. So all of that had to be boiled down. And that’s just the physical stuff, let alone the emotional stuff, which again has to be projected to the nine-hundred seat theatre that we’re going into. But actually what’s  brilliant is that we could then talk to each other. Shakespeare is great roared; Shakespeare is sublime when it’s just spoken.

[rehearsal of scene with Brutus and Portia]


Portia:
‘Yet I insisted, yet you answered not
But with an angry wafture of your hand
Gave sign for me to leave you.’

[interview]

Adjoa Andoh (Portia):
Doing the filming having done the rehearsals, so you’ve got the groundwork in, you know who Julius Caesar is, you know all that groundwork, and you kind of know who you are and you know who your relationships are, so you come to film with that sort of relation there. But then when you’re working in film, there’s an intimacy, there’s a freedom and an intimacy that the camera allows you, and I think that some of the intimacy that we’ve discovered through filming will be brilliant to bring back and filter in to what we’ve already found for the stage production, and I am surprised by how fantastically useful I think the stage rehearsal has been for the filming, and now the filming performance will be for putting it back on the stage. So I think it’s been a really great process.

[shots of filming location]

[interview]

John Wyver (producer):
This abandoned shopping mall isn’t the obvious place to reproduce a modern African state, but in fact, what we’ve done is use the different spaces and the different areas across this very big site to find he sort of equivalents of the scenes that are being done on the stage. But at the same time responding to the particular areas and the particular kinds of features of the building. 

Matilda Wainwright (art director):
The scenes that are set in the big stadium in Rome we’re not doing, so we’re doing everything behind. The idea sort of is is that there’s a backstage area of a big stadium and we’re referencing as ideas an African equivalent of the Emirates stadium, sort of like that, so breeze block has been quite big and we’ve taken a motif that comes from Oriental City, our location, to replicate walls and build flats to create this big sort of entrance to the Senate – and they are all slightly theatrical-slash-slightly real. So we’ve sort of mixed – it’s a little bit stylised, at the same time as trying to make things as logical as possible.

[rehearsal scenes]

[interview]

Gregory Doran (director): 
The play divides into private and public. There is all the conspiracy scenes, all the backstage hugger-mugger scenes, and then after the assassination, there’s the political fallout and the tent scene, which is essentially two men talking for twenty minutes. Those are what I describe as the private scenes. And the public  scenes are the scenes in which Caesar presents himself to his mob, to the people, and then when his dead body is presented to the people by Marc Antony in the forum. So we decided that we would film all of the private scenes on location, but we would film the public scenes actually in the theatre itself. Whether it works or not will depend on how we do those transitions. 

[rehearsal for assassination scene]

Caesar: 
‘And constant do remain to keep him so.’

Cinna:
‘O Caesar -.’

Decius:
‘Great Caesar -.’

Caesar:
‘Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?’

Casca:
‘Speak, hands, for me.'

Gregory Doran (director): 
‘Cut. Great shot, well done.’

[interview]

John Wyver (producer):
We’re shooting this We’re shooting this film of Julius Caesar in twelve days on location and a single day in the theatre, two performances in the theatre. For the twelve days on location, we have to record well over a hundred minutes of finished screen time. Conventional television drama usually gets perhaps five or six minutes of finished screen material in a day. We’re looking to get close to double that, certainly nine minutes or so. We’re able to do it I think because we in one place. So we brought all of the facilities here, we’re finding all the different sets and locations within the building, and we don’t have to travel from place to place, set up again, reset all of the facilities and so forth, which you often have to do with television drama, which eats up a lot of time. We’re also able to do it because the actors have had four weeks of rehearsals towards the stage production, but four weeks of rehearsals which they are drawing on and using to bring forth their performances. And so they already have these characters, these lines, their way of speaking, and their way of reacting to each other quite deep within them. They’ve learned a lot of that and that allows us to shoot quickly and get great performances on the screen.

[shooting aftermath of assassination scene]

Camera assistant:
'One thirteen, take two.'

Brutus:
'Speak to me what thou art.’

Caesar:
‘They evil spirit, Brutus.’

Brutus:
'Why com’st thou?’

Caesar:
‘To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.’

Brutus:
‘Well: then I shall see thee again?’

Caesar:
‘Ay, at Philippi.’

Gregory Doran (director): 
‘Cut.’

Kristian Dench (first assistant):
‘Camera’s cut.’

 

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