Harriet Walter 'remarkable' in all-female Julius Caesar

Weirdness, thuggery and horror: director Phyllida Lloyd sets Shakespeare in a women's prison

LAST UPDATED AT 08:27 ON Thu 6 Dec 2012

What you need to know
Director Phyllida Lloyd's production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, featuring an all-female cast, has opened at the Donmar Warehouse. Lloyd is best known for her films The Iron Lady and Mama Mia.

The production sets the action in a women's prison, with the female inmates staging a production of Shakespeare's tale of the political assassination of Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

Harriet Walter plays Brutus, Frances Barber is Julius Caesar, and Cush Jumbo is Mark Antony. Runs until 9 February.

What the critics like
Extraordinarily bold, says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. There's crazed, percussive intensity, weirdness, thuggery and horror – think /Prisoner: Cell Block H/, with a twist of Stasi brutality. "This is visceral and exciting theatre."

Witty, liberating and inventive, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. It proves that female actors can bring a fresh perspective to traditionally male roles. The acting all round is strong but "the shining example is Harriet Walter" who gives us a remarkable Brutus.

It's an intense and bracing revival, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. The fine cast cock a snook at the sceptics, especially Harriet Walter's "haunted, hollow-cheeked, Hamlet-like Brutus".

What they don't like
This is a production that is resolutely determined to be as edgy and uncomfortable as possible, says Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. "Having given so much uncomplicated pleasure with her production of /Mamma Mia!/ Lloyd now appears hell-bent on making the audience suffer for their art." · 

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