Young actors give Julius Caesar a modern twist

The Westlake Primary School cast of Julius Caesar.

It’s full of murder, brutality, betrayal and death, but for some Westlake Primary School pupils, William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is their ticket to the Artscape stage.

It might not be quite what the Bard had in mind when the play was first performed in 1599, but the pupils’ 2021 remake – complete with rap song – is still true to the heart of the story, according to theatre producers Coleen van Staden and Celia Musikanth who worked with the group of 20 preteens on the production, in partnership with the Labia Foundation, for the Shakespeare School Festival

Lifelong friends Van Staden and Musikanth run a theatre company, Circle Productions, and while 2020 was a write-off for many in the business of live theatre, they are determined to guide the next generation of thespians stage left, and stage right.

Van Staden says she and Musikanth were, at first, a bit anxious about presenting the play – with all those daggers and bloody togas – to the children, but the budding actors surprised them with their eagerness to tackle all the roles.

“Every child auditioned for every part, and all the girls were just as keen to play male roles,” Musikanth says.

Van Staden handled the directing and stage management, while Musikanth took each child through their paces with diction, voice projection and the other basics of theatre work.

Voice projection is important because the actors on stage will be masked as a Covid-19 safety measure.

Van Staden laughs as she describes how she channeled her inner “gangster granny” to come up with the rap song that helps to add a contemporary spin to the Bard’s original tragedy.

The children were meant to perform at the Masque Theatre, but last-minute changes to the programme led to the show being moved to the Artscape theatre on Saturday May 22 at 7pm. Bookings are through Computicket.