Julius Caesar | Phyllida Lloyd's startling all-female version of Shakespeare's play on screen

Julius Caesar Harriet Walter
(Image credit: Helen Maybanks)

Julius Caesar Harriet Walter

Phyllida Law’s startling version of Julius Ceasar set in a women’s prison appears in a gripping new screen version in UK cinemas from today.

The first part of Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare trilogy, the production bowled over critics and audiences when it was originally staged for the Donmar Warehouse in 2012. And it has lost little of its impact on screen.

As in the theatre, we’re presented with the spectacle of women prisoners putting on Shakespeare’s play under the watchful eyes of prison warders. The setting gives the play’s power struggles and shifting loyalties extra charge – and so does the inclusion of ex-offenders, members of the Clean Break Theatre Company, among the production’s professional cast.

Harriet Walter again plays Brutus, the anguished patrician who violently deposes Jackie Clune’s cellblock queen of a Caesar but cannot control the mayhem the assassination unleashes. Martina Laird is Brutus’s less principled right-hand, Cassius, and Jade Anouka the rabble-rousing Mark Antony.

Go-Pro cameras, iPhones and a bird’s eye drone give the action extra urgency. And in an era of populist demagogues and politically motivated violence, Lloyd and her team show that the play couldn’t be timelier.

Julius Caesar in UK cinemas from 12 July.


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.