Premieres Friday, March 29 on PBS
Tony Award-nominee Harriet Walter stars in director Phyllida Lloyd’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece
Set in a women’s prison, Great Performances: Julius Caesar offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens. In this acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production directed Phyllida Lloyd (“The Iron Lady,” “Mamma Mia!”), Shakespeare’s famous discourse on power, loyalty and tragic idealism is heightened against the backdrop of female incarceration. Great Performances: Julius Caesar premieres nationwide Friday, March 29 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and streams the following day on pbs.org/gperf and PBS apps.
The cast stars Tony Award-nominee Harriet Walter (“Sense and Sensibility,” “Mary Stuart”) as Brutus, Jackie Clune (“Borderline”) as Caesar, Martina Laird (“EastEnders”) as Cassius, Jade Anouka (“Cleaning Up”) as Mark Antony, Karen Dunbar as Casca, Clare Dunne as Portia and Octavius Caesar, Shiloh Coke as Cinna the Poet, Sheila Atim as Lucius, Leah Harvey as Soothsayer, Zainab Hasan as Calpurnia and Metellus Cimber, Jennifer Joseph as Trebonius, Carolina Valdés as Cinna, and Sarah-Jane Dent, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty and Liv Spencer as guards.
The women play male inmates and guards: Brutus wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony manipulates the crowd with subtle and incendiary rhetoric to create frenzied mob violence. Performed in-the-round and enhanced by a guerilla filming style on a mostly bare stage, Great Performances: Julius Caesar creates a unique perspective on Shakespeare’s tragedy. GoPros and a drone offer a stark reminder of the prison setting, and heavy metal music blasts to highlight the conflict on stage.
The production was the first of a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions at London’s Donmar Warehouse that The Guardian called “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years.” All three productions — “Julius Caesar,” “Henry IV” and “The Tempest”—were set in a women’s prison, inspired by a creative collaboration between prisoners, actors and the production team in association with the theater company Clean Break and the York St. John University Prison Partnership Project.
Major funding for Great Performances is provided by The Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the Irene Diamond Fund, Rosalind P. Walter, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, The Agnes Varis Trust, The Starr Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, The Phillip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The Abra Prentice Foundation, public television viewers and PBS.
Julius Caesar was produced by Kate Pakenham and John Wyver. Great Performances is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. Throughout its more than 40-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided viewers across the country with an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.
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