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Steer clear of the beer before Stratford's new Julius Caesar
Prospective visitors to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Julius Caesar, which I review enthusiastically today on our arts pages, are advised to stay out of the Dirty Duck beforehand — or, at any rate, steer clear of the beer. Unusually for a work of its length, the play is performed without an interval. That means legs crossed for two hours and 15 minutes for anyone who starts out in need of a loo.
The decision to dispense with a break rests with the director, in this case Gregory Doran. I hope this is not a taste of what is to come when he takes control of the whole company as artistic director later in the year. Mr Doran certainly has ‘form’ in this area. His 1999 Macbeth at the Swan Theatre, featuring his partner Antony Sher as the murderous monarch, was the first production of this play I recall being performed straight through. It set the trend for many I have experienced without interval since.
For Charles Spencer, writing in the Daily Telegraph, it felt “weird and wonderful” to be out of Julius Caesar while it was still light. I cannot believe audiences will share his enthusiasm for a production that “hurtles along without an interval”.
An usher to whom I spoke on press night said so many people were walking out during the show — and not going back — that she suspected an interval might have to be introduced.
This would certainly seem fairer to the audience, not only allowing time for the loo and leg-stretching but also for a discussion over a drink of the production being watched.
In theatres less lavishly supported than the RST by the public purse, intervals have an important role, too, in stimulating income through bar takings.