A student drama ensemble has taken less than 40 hours to bring Shakespearian tragedy Julius Caesar to life for a peer audience.
The group used minimal props – two tables, 10 chairs, Romanesque sashes and beanies – to perform the political thriller over a week to audience of Years 8 to 11 students.
The Sydney Catholic Schools Performing Arts’ 2015 Senior TheatreWorks production is performed by 15 students in Year 9 to 11 from seven schools within the Sydney Archdiocese – Aquinas Catholic College Menai, Marist College Eastwood, Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakemba, St Mary’s Cathedral College Sydney, Bethlehem College Ashfield, De La Salle Caringbah, and Christian Brothers High School Lewisham.
Joseph Killalea, a Year 10 student at Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakemba, played the title role of Caesar. His classmates saw the performance, followed by a Q&A session, on November 24 at the school’s theatre. He shared that he mostly learned his lines while on the bus to and from school.
“Caesar is actually a pretty simple character,” Joseph said. “He’s very arrogant and thinks he’s invincible. He acts all high and mighty and that’s the character we portrayed.”
Bethlehem College Year 10 student Ruby Busuttil joined Joseph on stage a Caesar’s wife Calpurnia.
“She’ s had a vision that he is going to die but he doesn’t listen to her,” she said. “There are very strict gender roles. He’s very dismissive of her. He doesn’t care what she has to say though she is right.”
Matthew Burns in Year 11 at St Mary’s Cathedral College played Brutus, one of the senators who conspires to assassinate Caesar and is known as a great orator.
“Brutus is a very conflicting character because he’s not evil in any way but he killed his best friend for the good of Rome,” Matthew said.
His peer Anthony King, who delivered Marc Antony’s now infamous speech which incited the Roman people to rebellion after Caesar’s assassination, told the audience there was a lot to think about in that key scene.
“I’d say everything is difficult about it because you are trying to get the country folk on your side after they’ve just been told differently and they are completely siding with Brutus,” he said. “One of the hard things was differentiating my tone of voice.”
Director and CaSPA Drama Advisor Roger Wise said the blood, battle and politics of the play attracted more boys to the audition, ending with a cast of 12 boys and three girls.
“We’ve talked a lot about the characters and gone through literally every word of the script with the actors,” she said.
“They’ve worked together in groups on what each speech means and a lot of them have done research and Googled what the archaic words mean.
“They’ve done a lot of work on their own trying to come to grips with the language, which is the major stumbling block for younger actors. Then it is just like any other play – Here are the characters, what are the tensions, how do we make it live and believe the situation.”