The last time I saw Julius Caesar, it was an all-female version set in a prison. Dominic Dromgoole's version at the Globe contains no such radical turnarounds. The production uses what his predecessor Mark Rylance called 'original practices', meaning Shakespearean costumes and design. The show starts with Shakespearean stagehands slotting together wooden scenery on stage, and reimagines Rome not as we might see it today, but as Shakespeare and his contemporaries saw it.
The production's major strength is in the crowd scenes. Dromgoole's Roman mob romps its way past the groundlings, and chants like a drunken football crowd : 'LUPERCAL!' and 'CAESAR!', showing a dangerous contempt for its betters. No surprise then when Brutus spectacularly misjudges the popular mood and allows Mark Antony to sway the plebs with his oratory.
For me some of the parts are underplayed; I've seen far more subtle renderings of Caesar, Cassius and Brutus, though Luke Thompson is impressive as Mark Antony, conveying a blend of genuine fury and calculating manipulation in his speech over Caesar's body.
After the interval, Julius Caesar can seem anticlimactic, with only the swords-and-sandals stuff of the battle of Philippi to come. But Tom McKay as Brutus and Anthony Howell as Cassius make a good fist of the long quarrel scene in the tent. One of the things the Globe does best is to strip away the 400 years of history separating the modern audience from Shakespeare's theatre, and this production exemplifies that approach.