ITALive: Roman Tragedies
'Shakespeare as never before' – The Independent *****
In Roman tragedies, Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld have created a unique arena in which Shakespeare speaks about our time more than ever and the political game in all its facets.
Starting May 30, VPRO will broadcast a 10-part adaptation, made especially for television, of the six-hour play Roman tragedies by International Theater Amsterdam (ITA). For two weeks, every Sunday through Thursday on NPO2. Only in Dutch.
About Roman tragedies
The three Roman tragedies
reveal all political games. Coriolanus takes place during the rise of the Roman Republic. The eponymous hero refuses to submit to the changed political constellation. He defies the masses and their new representatives and is banished. Ultimately he takes up arms against Rome, his own city.
Julius Caesar acquires power because, by contrast, he is a virtuoso in manipulating the masses. A number of politicians fear the advent of a dictatorship and remove him in order to save the democracy, but by then it is already too late to reverse the changed political climate.
In Antony & Cleopatra, global politics and the passionate love between the Roman Antony and the Egyptian Cleopatra become intertwined. Antony’s inner conflict between public responsibility and his heart’s desire leads to a bloodbath.
- CORIOLANUS -
Coriolanus - Successful general from an old patrician family. Politics is a logical next step in a promising career. He can count on the support of influential friends, but his straightforward statements make him unloved by the common people and their representatives.
Volumnia - Mother of Coriolanus. She dedicated her life to her family's eminent position and status in the service of the Fatherland. Now she is concentrating her ambition on her son, who has everything to make history.
Virgilia - Wife of Coriolanus. Although their bond is the result of a deliberate marriage policy, Coriolanus and she love each other deeply. But Virgilia knows she is the eternal second: Volumnia's ambition reigns unapproachably in Coriolanus' heart.
Menenius - A hard core politician from a patrician family that has dominated Roman politics for generations. A political crisis has never made him skip a meal. His charisma is his best ally. As a party member, Coriolanus deserves his support, but even more so, the young soldier is a dear friend who arouses fatherly feelings in Menenius.
Cominius - Political ally and friend of Coriolanus. As consul he is the army commander in the war of expansion against the Volscen. He gladly acknowledges Coriolanus's decisive merits in the struggle and thus gives him a boost in his future political career.
Sicinius and Brutus - Peoples' tribunals, which should enable a wider political participation of the people in the Roman Republic. They have been appointed to avert an impending civil war. As political newcomers they present themselves against the elitist political establishment. Coriolanus's open contempt for the people is grist to their mill.
Aufidius - Military leader of the Volscen, a people desperate to try to resist Rome's aggressive expansionism. Coriolanus has defeated him several times and is for Aufidius the symbol of the Roman humiliation of his people.
- JULIUS CAESAR -
Brutus - Thinker for whom political business is an ethical matter. As consul, he fears the concentration of power around his friend Caesar, which is a threat to the republic. A political murder seems the only way out, but in his musings Brutus searches diligently for a justification for the murder of the human Caesar.
Cassius - Friend and ally of Brutus. A pragmatist for whom political action is. Cassius convinces Brutus that a murder of Caesar is inevitable. His motives are twofold: the salvation of the republic and a personal dislike of Caesar. (In this staging, Cassius is a woman.)
Julius Caesar - Charismatic leader who responds flawlessly to the needs of the people. His ambition is limitless and through his foreign conquests he has given Rome enormous wealth.
Portia - Wife of Brutus. She claims a place in his political life that he sees completely separate from marriage. For Portia, however, the division between private and political is unacceptable.
Calpurnia - Caesar's wife, for whom marriage and private life are above political matters. It can penetrate to Caesar's human core, but eventually loses it of its political ambition. Feels flawlessly that the political climate is becoming very threatening to her husband.
Antony - Rolls into politics with the murder of his friend Caesar. Become a politician of the great emotions. In an unparalleled way he plays on the feelings and sentiments of the masses. After Caesar's death with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, forms the triumvirate that takes control of Rome.
Octavius Caesar - Cousin and adoptive son of Julius Caesar, who is also called Caesar. (In this staging, Octavius Caesar is a woman.)
- ANTONY & CLEOPATRA -
Cleopatra - Queen of Egypt and Antony's lover. She is Egypt. In her leadership she combines the political with the personal, so that her mission for an autonomous Egypt goes hand in hand with the love for Anthony. She operates from passion and a rock-solid faith.
Antony - After the death of Julius Caesar one of the three rulers of Rome. In Egypt he neglects his political obligations to be with his mistress Cleopatra. He wants to restore his honor as a Roman statesman, even marries for it, but his love for the Egyptian queen proves stronger.
Octavius Caesar - After Caesar's death with Antony and Lepidus, forms the triumvirate that takes control of Rome. Leads the world based on its management policy, in which opponents are eliminated both strategically and tactically. (In this staging, Octavius Caesar is a woman.)
lepidus - Third and oldest member of the triumvirate. His attempts to reconcile Antony with Octavius Caesar - in order to preserve peace in the Roman Empire - quickly disastrous Lepidus.
Charmian - Cleopatra's first adviser, critical and free-spirited. She is an important sounding board for the queen, mediates and gives advice. Charmian fully identifies with her mistress.
Enobarbus - Antony's first adviser. He is loyal, dedicated and honest. Even when Antony, in his view, commits major military and political mistakes, he remains in his position as top adviser until the consequences prove irreversible.
Iras - Cleopatra's second adviser. Part of the grandeur of Egypt. She supports and takes care of Cleopatra unconditionally.
Octavia - Sister of Octavius. A political marriage between Octavia and Antony must repair the break in the triumvirate. Octavia becomes the symbol of national unity, but the show marriage lasts for a very short time.
Cast Julius Caesar
Cast Antony & Cleopatra
Minute per minute
05 Coriolanus is awarded the laurel wreath
15 Triumphant entry into Rome
18 Scenery change 1*
21 Coriolanus is nominated as consul
31 Coriolanus is removed from the Senate (due to his violent behaviour)
42 Coriolanus makes a public apology
46 Coriolanus is banished from Rome
49 Scenery change 2*
53 Coriolanus crosses over to the enemy
80 Coriolanus yields to his mother
80 Scenery change 3*
88 Death of Coriolanus
90 Brutus fears that the people will crown Caesar as king
107 Scenery change 4*
114 The conspirators meet at night
125 Portia wants to know what is troubling Brutus. Calpurnia does not want Caesar to go to the Capitol
138 Death of Julius Caesar
150 Scenery change 5*
153 Brutus and Antony speak to the masses
161 Scenery change 6*
165 Quarrel and reconciliation of Brutus and Cassius
185 Death of Brutus
187 Scenery change 7*
ANTONY EN CLEOPATRA
212 Antony’s presence is needed in Rome
226 Emergency meeting of the triumvirate: restoration of the triumvirate
243 Antony leaves Rome with his wife Octavia
256 Caesar breaks the cease-fire with Pompey. Octavia proposes herself as mediator
261 Caesar defeats Pompey and dissolves the triumvirate
280 Scenery change 8*
297 Antony and Cleopatra estimate their loss
332 Death of Mark Antony
339 Caesar plans a triumphant inauguration in Rome with Cleopatra
355 Death of Cleopatra
359 The end
(*) While the scenery is being changed, you will receive additional information from the Master of Ceremonies, Noraly Beyer.
The press about Roman tragedies
‘This is an exhilarating pleasure. Director Ivo van Hove gleefully reinvents these tragedies of private obsessions and passions, political ambitions and expediency to make it seem as if Shakespeare is not only our contemporary but only finished writing the plays this morning. The final hour of the final play, Antony and Cleopatra, is about as good as theatre gets; combining astonishingly inventive stagecraft with glorious acting, raw as an open wound, totally invested and decidedly unpretty.’ - The Guardian
‘A staggering six-hour spectacle, mixing theatre, music and video.’ Télérama
‘Making Shakespeare as understandable as possible: this is the strength of the route taken’ Libération
‘One word: go.’ New York Post
‘The highlight of the Wiener Festwochen... . Resounding applause after a stunning evening.’ Observer
‘The intensive, highly concentrated performance by the 15-strong ensemble is transmitted by cameras live in close-up, and at the same time you experience it at first hand.’ Wiener Zeitung
‘Incredibly fascinating... This tightly-knit ensemble produces lively, gripping and nightmarish theatre of world quality. Bravo.’ Kurier
‘This world, perfectly created by Ivo van Hove with an excellent ensemble, lets Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance unfold...’ Kroner Zeitung
'Roman Tragedies is a theatrical triumph, and more than deserving of the standing ovation and multiple curtain calls it received on opening night. Without doubt, one of the very best productions of the year.' artshub Australia
'Roman Tragedies is a Dutch triumph. No doubt about it.' The Adelaide Review *****
'The Roman marathon has a singularity of purpose that holds your attention from the opening blow to the very last asp.' The Guardian ****
‘(…) un suspence haletant, magistralement porté par les formidables comédiens. Une formidable leçon de politique. Et de théâtre.’ Le Soir
'A terrifying multimedia show. With this project Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld have written a new and impressive chapter in their ongoing quest for a new theatrical language.' Volkskrant
‘In a totally inartificial manner, a dazzling, contemporary design presents a content that is as old as the hills.’ AD
'An incomparable theatre experience, the theatre of the future: inventive, stimulating the senses, with cutting-edge technology and right in your face. A production that we could already call legendary.’ Elsevier
'Seldom has theatre felt so relevant. Roman Tragedies shows politics as an unstable marriage of personal ambition and national interest. After seeing the production you start discussing and keep discussing.’ De Morgen
'Roman Tragedies is a groundbreaking production for the new millennium in which the stage becomes a total political experience.' De Standaard