If I do live, I will be good to thee.
Marcus Brutus speaks softly to his servant Lucius, and asks him to play some music awhile. Lucius plays and sings quietly, until he falls asleep from exhaustion. Now there are tears brimming in Brutus’ eyes, which are fixed in a broken, far-off stare. This is his moment of realization, when the weight of the world has settled upon his shoulders. The death of his wife, the mounting defeat of his army, and the loss of the city he loves.
He had meant well. He had loved Caesar but truly believed that killing him was the only way to save Caesar from all the ways that power would deform his spirit. To save Rome from the grasping tentacles of greed and corruption.
But it had come to this. In a darkened tent, Lucius asleep over his instrument, Brutus stares like a man who can feel his body breaking away from life, even as he still breathes.
If I remember nothing else from this play, I want to remember this scene. I was so shocked by the look on his face - that terrible, stricken look of dark acceptance and helplessness. Should Sam Troughton’s career as an actor continue to grow (and something tells me it most certainly will), then I have still seen his finest moment, because it cannot get any more real than the performance we saw him give.
A handful of other highlights: Greg Hicks as a pompous yet naive Caesar, and Darrell D’Silva (left) as the boisterous, bellowing Mark Antony, whose heartbreak over Caesar’s death is so swiftly translated into the deep rage that he uses to stir the thoughts of the people against Brutus and his gang. Lucius, played by young Tunji Kasim, who can also turn his long body into that of a cat, his top lip quivering to reveal human teeth, which we still believe to be deadly fangs. And the remarkable Oliver Ryan as the most exquisite, snake-like, smooth talking Casca.
We were in the front row of a very violent play. A few times we instinctively leaned back as the soldiers thundered towards us in battle, their shields and spears clanging wildly. And the blood. Caesar stumbling from his podium, red gurgling from his mouth, his robes sticking to his stomach and chest. Scarlet smeared on his killers’ hands, up to the elbows. The wretched, writhing death of Cinna the Poet, a case of mistaken identity brought to a quick and terrible end. Cassius pressing his face into the shoulder of his friend, guiding him to stab him to death so that he may not be captured. And dear Brutus, running at the sword held by the still bloody ghost of Caesar, before collapsing into a heap.
But it always comes back to Brutus. Underneath all the clamour, there is this moment when all of the violence of the world melts away. He is so tender to Lucius, taking his instrument from him and helping him to bed. Good boy, good night. For all the great speeches and desire to earn the favour of the masses, this is for me the most noble scene.
Oh, Royal Shakespeare Company, I adore thee. You make me fall in love with language over and over again. Sit me in one of your seats for a few hours and suddenly I am transformed into the dreamer I have always wanted to be.
(Nearly done with Stratford. Just some photos of a sculpture I loved, and some comic relief madness left to go)