RSC’s ‘Imperium’ Explores a Different Side of the Julius Caesar Epic
When you think of the Royal Shakespeare Company, you think of the Bard and probably expect to see one of his 37 canonical plays. After all, the troupe is based in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace.
The RSC is so much more than Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet. They often explores classic texts and reimagine them onstage. Their current production focuses on Cicero, a senator who features in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Inspired by the power struggles and politics of Ancient Rome, Robert Harris wrote a trilogy of novels, retelling the story from Cicero’s perspective. Mike Poulton then adapted this for the stage as a play in two parts, Imperium: Conspirator & Dictator. This production is directed by RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran.
The play runs at the Gielgud Theatre until 8 September. Here’s everything you need to know before attending this show.
The story is based on Julius Caesar.
You don’t need to have seen Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” or even know what “Et tu, Brute?” means to understand this show. The story focuses on the Roman statesman Cicero, who opposed Caesar’s dictatorship and became mired in the rebellion after Caesar’s assassination. Shakespeare avids and history buffs will nerd out at this oft overlooked perspective on the Caesar story.
There’s no iambic pentameter.
While the bard’s work is defined by its poetic meter and rhyme structure, Imperium avoids verse and is written and performed in modern English, without a thou or wherefore in sight! It’s been adapted/modernised by Mike Poulton, an award-winning playwright best known for his adaptations of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
The show has two parts.
Seven hours of theatre might seem pretty daunting, so let’s break it down. Imperium is split into two parts. Part 1: Conspirator and Part 2: Dictator. Each of these is split into three acts. Each act is it’s own self-contained play. Conspirator comprises of Cicero, Catiline and Clodius; Dictator features Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian. Think of it as a live Netflix series that you get to binge on, three episodes at a time. If that’s still too much, you don’t need to see both parts; you can see Conspirator or Dictator and they will still make sense. We have a feeling you’ll want to see both though.
Richard McCabe is Cicero.
McCabe is one of the leading classical actors at the top of his craft. He won an Olivier Award for his performance opposite Dame Helen Mirren in “The Audience”. He’s played every role from Puck to Iago as an associate artist for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The show is already a hit.
The production premiered in the RSC’s home, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and theatre-goers loved it so much that it transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. The Guardian calls “Imperium” a “tremendous show,” and The Independent says it’s “dynamic epic theatre presented with terrific energy and clarity.”
You can unlock Rush tickets on TodayTix.
We’ve got access to the best seats for “Imperium: Conspirator & Dictator.” Unlock £20 Rush tickets to each part, or get your tickets now. The show is running at the Gielgud Theatre until 8 September.