Independent Theatre began its theatrical life at the Adelaide Fringe in 1984 and celebrates its 30th birthday this year.
To start the year, it is mounting Bernard Shaw’s seldom-seen, but scintillatingly topical political comedy, Caesar and Cleopatra, about the aging Julius Caesar’s attempts to educate Egypt’s 16-year-old queen in the politics of power. Their relationship is very like that of Shaw’s Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle.
The fabled queen of the Nile has fascinated authors, playwrights, film-makers and actresses for centuries, through Plutarch, Shakespeare and Shaw, to Theda Bara, Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh and Liz Taylor. The play is a perfect vehicle for the start of Independent Theatre’s birthday year. One arm of the company’s original charter was to bring neglected classics to Adelaide audiences.
Seldom produced because of its size (professional companies just can’t afford to stage it), the play remains a classic, not just because of Shaw’s trademark wit and humour, but also because, like all Shaw plays, it has brilliant things to say about social, moral and political issues. In Caesar and Cleopatra, Shaw savagely attacks the politics of revenge, retribution and retaliation: “And so – to the end of history – murder will breed murder, always in the name of honour and right and peace, until the gods are tired of blood, and create a race that can understand.”
One only has to look at the world’s trouble-spots today to see that Shaw’s warning – over a hundred years ago – is still potent today.
In keeping with all Independent Theatre’s major productions, Caesar and Cleopatra sports a large cast, on brilliantly imaginative sets, and wearing a stunning array of Roman and Egyptian costumes, all specially made for the production. Independent Theatre has a happy history with Shaw’s plays, proving that Adelaide audiences are hungry for entertaining plays of ideas:
• 1985 – Mrs Warren’s Profession – dealing with poverty and prostitution
• 1988 – Heartbreak House – jingoism and war-mongering at the start of World War I
• 2005 – Pygmalion – focussing on language, education, the class-system, and the rights of women
• 2008 – Major Barbara – examining the morality of armaments
Caesar and Cleopatra is likely to prove no exception.
Caesar and Cleopatra
Where: Odeon Theatre, Queen Street, Norwood
When: 4-12 April 2014
Tickets: $23.25 – $40.55
Bookings: Book through BASS online phone 131 246, or book via the Independent Theatre website