Dead CaesarLeft - (L-R) Alan Dukes, John Leary, Andrew Hansen, Ben Borgia. Toby Moore (foreground). Cover - Ewen Leslie & Andrew Hansen. Photos - Heidrun Lohr

The Chaser’s war on Ancient Rome or Sydney Theatre Company?

This is the debut play from Chaser collaborator Chris Taylor; and the level of sophistication makes you wonder would it be produced by STC if it weren’t for his notoriety. I’ll wager a no.

Dead Caesar is a revue style comedy, the lifeblood of which being toilet gags and others of a comparable ilk. I felt a little outnumbered seeing everyone in near hysterics at Andrew Hansen cunningly putting fart noises into the tune of Hey Nonny Nonny.

In fact, the whole piece didn’t seem entirely new to me, many of the gags and the format itself were all too familiar. Audiences who know of or have seen “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” know Dead Caesar already. I felt if the writers who put together “The Complete Works” turned their attentions to Julius Caesar the end product would be virtually the same. The elements to which I’m referring included crossing the footlights to involve an audience member, the meta-theatricality of stepping out the play to narrate, and a tacked on ‘complete history of Rome-in under a minute’ number-which for some reason ended with the cast bowing to a projection of Amanda Vanstone. During said narration Taylor thought it necessary to throw in a gag about the STC being too tight to hire more actors. Is it really so smart to bite the hand that feeds?

But things weren’t as dreary as all that. Yes, the script was certainly lacking in any real comedic substance-but the performers put things right. There were some great performances and it was for the most part, a talented ensemble cast. The combined comedic timing of the actors meant that even the lesser gags got some laughs. John Leary was hilarious as the hapless downtrodden messenger with his big showstopper about no-one loving the messenger. Ben Borgia was also amusing in his role as Brutus. The only wheel in need of some grease was Monica Sayers who played well over the top and not into the style of the piece which made her characters feel as though they’d been ripped from the pages of a panto.

The production elements themselves were solid, such as Bruce McKinven’s interesting set design. It was a simple stairs and column Roman forum complete with red and yellow colour scheme, this was matched by the punchy lighting design of Stephen Hawker. The use of live music provided by Andrew Hansen was a nice touch as well, which helped some of the humour along also rounding out its review atmosphere.

Dead Caesar is funny on a very simple level - if you don’t know the story of Julius Caesar it doesn’t matter because you’re furnished with a simple rendering of the plot. You’re also treated to some one dimensional contemporary political humour for good measure. When seeing Dead Caesar I’d suggest leaving expectations at the door, what you’re going to witness is not so much comedy as light entertainment. I mean very, very light.

By Chris Taylor

Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company
6 July – 28 July 2007
Monday at 7pm; Tuesday to Thursday at 8:15pm; Friday 9pm; Saturday 5pm and 9pm
$34/$21 concession, students $15
(02) 9250 1777 /

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