Pros: A great take on a famous Shakespearian play, which makes Julius Caesar into a modern day knife crime story.
Cons: Maybe my ears aren’t as good as they once were, but at times the diction could have been clearer. The street slang gave me some difficulties as well.
It’s difficult to separate Rise + Fall, the play, from Intermission Youth Theatre, the theatre group behind it. Or as the charming headmaster sitting next to me said, ‘It’s as much about the story of the group as it is about the play’.
Rise + Fall is the latest work from Intermission’s youth theatre group, run by Darren Raymond, who clearly has a passion for both theatre and his young actors. This passion is shared by everyone involved, and judging by tonight’s performance, that includes the audience. It’s not often that at the end of a play an audience member gets up to present a cheque, kindly donated by a group of local parents who had seen the play the previous week. The moment you walk into the impressive St Saviour’s Church, you’re greeted as if you’re an old friend by Cecilia, another passionate member of the Intermission team. And before we take our seats, there’s an introduction from Gary, mentor and pastor to the group. You just can’t help but be taken in by the enthusiasm of all those involved, and that is even before the play has even started.
So what about the play itself? Rise + Fall is William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar brought into an inner city classroom. Togas become school uniforms. The senate is the class room. Plotters do their plotting in quiet school corridors. As pupils rehearse to perform Julius Caesar, their dynamic is disrupted by new boy Jay, transferred from a rival school. Factions form and plans are hatched to dispose of him. Real life slowly merges with Shakespeare’s plot, and as the pupils rehearse their lines, those take on more and more meaning in the present day.
Rise + Fall is well written, blending traditional Shakespeare with inner city, made all the stronger because of the young cast. As Darren Raymond says in his programme notes, ‘the themes are very relevant to our times now for all generations. It’s the stabbing of Caesar that is the ultimate knife crime’. Any knowledge of Shakespeare or history will tell you how this play ends, and it’s not well for our central character. In that closing scene, as Anthony gives his speech in full blown style, behind him the class take their revenge on Jay, their Caesar. It’s enough to leave you in awe of both the acting and the staging. It’s as good a finale as you could hope for from any production.
The cast, ranging in ages from 16 to 23, are well rehearsed. It might be youth theatre, but this doesn’t mean that the acting is not of a high standard. What was most impressive was how easily the cast switched from the rough street slang of the school kids to the language of the original play.
At the end, the audience members are invited to remain and ask questions of the cast. Again, it just adds to the experience. You hear the passion of these young actors, not just for the play but for everyone involved. It’s great fun to see and moving to hear them try to put into words what the theatre group has done for them. Whilst this play is now drawing to a close, Intermission continue at the same venue all year round. If tonight’s performance is any indication, whatever they do next will be well worth seeing.
Author and Director: Darren Raymond
Producer: Intermission Youth Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.