18th, May 1997

By Rajpal Abeynayake

Hi-tech approach:Jerome as Caesar and John as Brutus
Who is this Brutus? Probably one of the most famous hypocrites of all time. There was an attempt last week, to relate Brutus and the whole Shakespearean caboodle of Julius Caesar to ordinary people ( samanaya janathawa.). Brutus was, I think consciously, made into the beautiful villain. There was an actor picked for the role. A mulatto Paul Newman he was....

So, Brutus is a beautiful man. Feroze Kamardeen's purpose in presenting Colombo audiences with a hi-tech digitized Julius Caesar was to relate Shakespeare to contemporary audiences. Or so we presume. But, one wonders why he should have strained, when there was Brutus. And Cassius.

The play was titled clinically "An anatomy of an assassination'', and the use of hi-tech gizmos and gimmicks made it unclear at the beginning whether one was at the movies, or the theater. Never mind.

John F Kennedy's most glamorous and theatrical assassination, and the assassinations of two other American black leaders, Malcolm X and the Rev Martin Luther King were projected onto the digitized (or whatyoumaycallit ) screen probably to relate the Shakespearean assassination to the modern milieu.

If the whole exercise was to relate Shakespeare to modern minds conditioned by the idiot-box, Kamardeen really didn't have to go that far. Let us take Brutus. Brutus is the personification of the modern hypocrite. Walk around, and every fifth righteous man you would bump into would be a Brutus.

Brutus is a righteous guy. He kills, for freedom and liberty. There will be many contemporary Brutus-likes who would kill with the same panache. For instance, Kamardeen, instead of using a sputtering helicopter, could have made use of a Brutus who assassinates character to show how close we are to the Bard's Caesar .

In suburbia, such characters are a dime a dozen. It wouldn't be difficult to write a role for Brutus, for instance, of a man who thinks being righteous is the same as being self-righteous.....

Anyway, the thing about relating Shakespeare to a modern milieu is that the characters all lived just yesterday. For example, when a Sri Lankan President was about to be impeached, there was Julius Caesar being played, right out there in the open, center-stage, villains anti-heroes and all. For instance, there were the comrades, who had daggers drawn ostensibly for liberty, democracy and freedom. Brutus in living colour. Brutus center-stage, and do we need gizmos?

These are times, when of course, none is supposed to take too serious a view of the Bard. Classic proscenium arch Shakespeare is for old fogeys in love with old hat.

So, it is "in" to rehash Shakespeare and to package him in a way that it could be said that he can be transposed to any age, even the age of electronic displays and infotainment.

Washington Post, incidentally, had a end of the millennium competition, in which editor's of newspapers, academics and intellectuals of recognition were asked to pick the genius of the millennium. Verdict: Shakespeare. Man who wrote Julius Caesar, incidentally. Shakespeare packaged himself for the millennium, so is there any need to repackage Shakespeare for the age of Internet and CNN?

On the other hand, whiz kids who like the Bard would say that Julius Caesar has been done to death, and that making an infocommercial out of Caesar wouldn't be a transgression because one more authentic rendition of Julius Caesar and the audience would have screamed. So give unto Caesar what is Caesar's — and give unto Kamardeen what is his.

Analytically speaking, that was a lot. The laser lights were Kamardeen's. The e-mail was Kamardeen's. The suspended chopper was Kamardeen's. Julius Caesar the opera was Kamardeen's. Julius Caesar the play was Shakespeare's. Mr. Kamardeen should definitely see the opera Saigon, if he already hasn't.

Jerome de Silva, as Julius Caesar was Jerome de Silva as in the brother of Gerry De Silva, the former commander

of the Sri Lankan army. The likeness was uncanny, until the assassination of the uniformed and be-medalled Julius Caesar took place and Mark Anthony suddenly made everything a toga party by crying over a torn toga instead of a torn general's uniform.

All that is incidental of course. But this tract does not aspire to be a review. So, a word about Jerome de Silva. Jerome is the master supremo of the special-effects. Theater exists mostly in the spectacle for Mr. De Silva. That's why Jerome tends to — a tad — over-act. But, incidentally again, Jerome is the personification of the showman. The stage has to revolve around him, (that's why he loves a revolving stage…). In a recent play, with the curtain call, he delivered speeches. ....

But Jerome is an honourable man. Nice man, incidentally. Recently he visited Arthur Miller, and was stunned out of his mind. He thought the world revolves around Arthur Miller.

And here is a secret. Jerome asked Arthur, the fit old man, how life was with like with Marilyn Monroe when he was married to her. Arthur Miller didn't say she was good in the sack or anything like that. So Jerome, getting curious, asked how she liked his plays. Miller sidled upto Jerome and said " she didn't read." (Then qualified by saying she never read beyond the first paragraphs.)

I don't grudge Jerome for deifying Miller. Jerome also thinks all pressmen distort. He was sarcastic about this at a recent do where he took center stage. Well this is what Jerome said about Miller. And he swore to kill me if I published it. Jerome the reverent. Sue me Jerome. I never promised I will not publish it. And Jerome is an honourable man.

Actually, they are all great men, the Jeromes and the Ferozes of Colombo. They keep English theater in this country alive. Gizmos, gimmicks revolving stages revolving egos and all. I don't want to be accused of being patronising, but hats off to them. Encore. Thanks to them , there is English theater to see, and there is a chance for good actors such as Dylan Perera and Jehan to be seen. That's the anatomy Julius.

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