Julius Caesar and Me

Paterson Joseph

DOI: 10.5040/9781350011212

ISBN: 9781350011182

'Julius Caesar is, simply, Shakespeare's African play' John Kani

In 2012, actor Paterson Joseph played the role of Brutus in the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed production of Julius Caesar - Gregory Doran's last play before becoming Artistic Director for the RSC. It is a play, Joseph is quick to acknowledge, that is widely misunderstood - even dreaded - when it comes to study and performance.

Alongside offering fascinating insights into Julius Caesar and Shakespeare's writing, Joseph serves up details of the rehearsal process; his key collaborations during an eclectic career; as well as his experience of working with a majority black cast. He considers the positioning of ethnic minority actors in Shakespeare productions in general, and female actors tackling so seemingly masculine a play in particular. Audience reactions are also investigated by Joseph, citing numerous conversations he has had with psychologists, counsellors and neurologists on the subject of what happens between performer and spectator.

For Paterson Joseph, his experience of playing Brutus in Julius Caesar with the RSC was a defining point in his career, and a transformative experience. For any actor or practitioner working on Shakespeare - or for any reader interested in his plays - this is a fascinating and informative read, which unlocks so much about making and understanding theatre from the inside.

'A fascinating inside look at the evolution of a play, as it brings an entirely new perspective to something we thought we knew. As it moves through readings, productions, and locations, the play shifts and changes, as do the relationships of the performers. By the end of Joseph's book, we forget that the African setting and interpretation can be anything other than the way Shakespeare originally imagined it.' Gretchen Gerzina, author and Dean of Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts, USA

'This is a lively, eloquent and exceptionally well-written and well-informed book. I read it in three sittings.' Russell Jackson, University of Birmingham, Department of Drama and Theatre Arts

'I found the proposed book to be very compelling and engaging, and I think it could appeal to a wide range of readers: RSC fans, drama students, and Shakespeareans. I really appreciated how honest and revealing PJ's thoughts were about the complicated process of staging the RSC's African Julius Caesar. He truly provides an insider's view, and I was especially pleased that he addressed the issue of casting and race in frank and complex terms.' Ayanna Thompson, George Washington University

'Joseph provides an insightful examination of the process of theatrical creation, in so doing giving the reader an inside look at one actor's approach to how to construct a performance. More than that, this memoir chronicles a widely successful effort, by a historically white theater company, to expand its consideration of Shakespeare's plays and engage with a demographic that is underrepresented in the theater. Written in friendly, accessible prose, the book is suitable-in part or in whole-both for aficionados of the theater and for those studying theater and performance. The book will make an excellent resource for discussion of Julius Caesar as a living piece of theater. Summing Up: Recommended.' CHOICE

'More than the story of an outstanding production, Julius Caesar and Me describes how a working-class, Afro-Carribean boy from Willesden, acutely aware of his racial and linguistic difference, comes to claim Shakespeare as "our greatest British export" ... he provides valuable insights for all.' Times Literary Supplement

'Having played Brutus myself in an all-female production set in a female prison, I was fascinated to read Paterson's analysis and anecdotes about the rehearsal and the building of a character in such a different context from the one I worked in. He tells a great story. His own journey in the RSC and the places to which that led him make this book unique and an inspiration for aspiring black actors everywhere.' Dame Harriet Walter, stage and screen actress

'Through his illuminating narrative and reflections, Joseph demonstrates an enduring passion for Shakespeare's plays and a belief that they still have the power to change perceptions and throw light on life and politics today. 4*'