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A review of Toneelgroep's The Roman Tragedies, by Meg Straw
In the set changes, the audience was free to move around the theatre-- to change seats, walk the stage, and buy snacks. This created a constant flow of movement and change--not unlike the population of Ancient Rome. Audience was allowed to sit on stage, eat food, take pictures, and interact during the performance as well.
I personally sat in the balcony, the stalls, the very first row, and on the stage. Each time my position changed, so did my perspective and viewpoint of the action. I was directly behind Brutus and Marc Antony during their funeral speeches for Caesar. As Marc Antony turned to face the populace, the theatre space was changed to one in the round, with direct address doing much to sway audience emotion.
Other times, characters moved and expressed without regard to the audience, such as Coriolanus' display of anger before the Senate.
This shifting balance constantly renegotiated stakes between audience and performer, and I was invested throughout. The cheeky countdowns to each character's death created suspense and anticipation long before each demise.
I'm very pleased to experience Shakespeare's Roman tragedies in such a unique, innovative way. This production didn't rely on historical costuming, blood effects, or even English to make its mark. It succeeded through effective cuts, blocking, and unity of concept.