Meredith Fuller OAM Psychologist Author Theatre Reviewer Toorak Times TAGG
I have seen a lot of theatre but never anything like this! This outstanding production is worthy enough to be taken to L.A., New York, or the West End; a special experience that both assaults and touches our hearts in an execution of logic and emancipation from being human.
Written by Albert Camus, I can see why Simone de Beauvoir loved him the most of her stable of lovers. His dialogue is sublime. The script is uncomfortably prescient of the world’s recent leaders in Trump et al. Wry and frightening, the dialogue remains contemporary and universal. Everything worked beautifully because the actors inhabited their roles to perfection.
The mad emperor Caligula takes us through the craziness of a flight to individual freedom in his quest to deliver death, destruction and annihilation while searching for attainment of the impossible. He wants to possess the moon (given that this is seen as the feminine principle, his desire to do so by employing his logical brain is strange to say the least) As tragi-comedy, we are simultaneously horrified and delighted at each scene.
Director Robert Mark Johnson has assembled a great cast that transcends gender diversity and spans a satisfying age range.
Young Liliana Dalton in the title role of Caligula is magnificent. She has that star quality of capturing our attention on stage at all times. I was transfixed by her; what a talent! I expect to see a lot more of her as she becomes one of our great Australian actors. Johnson has a potent connection with her – I’m in no doubt that he will shape a significant career for her.
Several other actors particularly drew my attention; Paul Robertson, Paul Armstrong, and Karlis Zaid were superb. They were mesmerising. Jake Matricardi shone in his scenes with Dalton. The old mistress grew stronger in character as she revealed the knowingness of the feminine principle.
Every scene was engrossing. The careful selection of music took us where we needed to go emotionally, and the simple set was inspired. The convex Moon as distorted mirror of the Self was so clever. Before interval, several intact female busts formed the backdrop to Caligula’s assertion of left brain logic, whilst post interval the busts were chopped into right brain halves, as he finally recognised the paucity of left brain logic when the intuitive right brain heart confronted him with aloneness and loss. Costumes and props were extraordinary. The carnival scene with singing and dancing was made even more hilarious by the costuming, or lack thereof in some cases! Very funny. The entertainment relaxed us from the tension of pre-interval. Following this relief, we are plunged into existential crisis.
Towards the end, Caligula’s soliloquy was gut wrenching. Dalton’s embodiment of her character throughout the two hours on stage was awesome. The final death scene was intriguing – a unique choreography of blood as weapon that was more violent than actual stabbing.
And yes, there was blood. And glitter.
When the play ended, my partner and I couldn’t move from our seats. My partner was so affected he couldn’t speak. This is profound theatre. Bravo to all involved. I have great admiration for co-producers Robert and Jessica Johnson for bringing such refreshing, idiosyncratic theatre to Melbourne. “Working with large casts is somewhat of a passion of mine. More than anything it allows an audience to see a community on stage in a very tangible way. There’s all sorts of reasons why, but we just don’t see enough ensemble plays in the independent theatre scene – particularly tragedy,” says Johnson.
Robert Mark Johnson is the artistic director of BURNING HOUSE, with his partner in work & love Jessica Johnson, they are co-directors, producers, and intellectual role models. Robert is known for intellectual, engrossing, and powerful productions. With a Masters in Directing for Performance (Fine Arts and Music at Melbourne – VCA and Conservatorium) and Bachelor of Performing Arts (Monash), Robert is committed to mentoring and supporting actors, directors, writers, and creatives.
CALIGULA is pure alchemy. This director is the philosopher’s stone. Not to be missed; this production will stay with you, reverberating the themes. I urge you to go.
CALIGULA, produced by Theatre Works and Burning House
Producers: Robert Johnson & Jessica Johnson
Director: Robert Johnson
Production Design: Riley Tapp
Lighting Design: Tim Bonser
Assistant Designer: Bridie Turner
Composition: Claire Healy
Dramaturg: Lore Burns
Stage Management: Acacia Nettleton & Ishana Girish
Cast: Paul Armstrong, Roderick Chappel, Liliana Dalton, Donna Dimovski-Kantarovski, Ioanna Gagani, Marnie Gibson, Cassandra Hart, Jake Matricardi, Michelle Robertson, Paul Robertson, Bridie Turner, Karlis Zaid
Performed @ Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, 7:30 pm 13 – 23 July,
Adults: $42.50, Concession $34.50, Student $27.50
Caligula 13 – 23 July 2022