Last Thursday, Adelaide saw its first ever performance of Camus’ Caligula. As mentioned in our interview with the Director, Michael Eustice, Red Phoenix Theatre only puts on Adelaide premières and this was the first time Adelaide had a stage performance of Albert Camus’ Caligula since it was first published in 1944.
For the uninitiated, Caliugla is based on the rule of the Roman Emperor of the same name and one whose cruelty ultimately led to his assassination by his own senators. It has been likened to a suicide given the nature in which Caligula essentially brought about a situation which forced others to bring him down.
The title role was played by the superb Robert Bell who impressed as he shocked from beginning to end. He also got a moment in drag as Caligula surprises his senators appearing before them in a flowy white dress as Venus.
There are also two strong prominent women in the piece, Tracey Walker who plays Helicon and Lyn Wilson as Caesonia. Helicon sees the ridiculousness of Caligula’s requests, such as when he tells her that she must get him the moon, but does not refuse or ridicule him. She is his protector, later telling those that are against him that she is their enemy, not Caligula. Caesonia’s character is a little murkier. Advising Scipio, the poet to talk to Caligula, one wonders whether she is perhaps plotting against Caligula but she instead seems to stand beside him right until the end.
Scipio is played by one of the youngest cast members, Mark Mulders and he does so with the strength of an actor far more experienced. He is definitely one to watch. His character is conflicted by Caligula’s actions. Caligula killed his father but at the same time he professes that he cannot kill him as he understands him. This puts him in direct opposition with, Cherea played by Brant Eustice, who sees a part of himself in Caligula that he prefers to keep suppressed and sees that it is the very reason Caligula should not continue to be.
The other cast members were all great in their roles. Metelius played by David Grybowski, Octavius by Malcom Walton, Cassius by David Lockwood and Meria by Adrian Barnes.
For the violence Caligula’s rule causes – the brutal killings of many and the rape and forced prostitution of others, Michael Eustice has found a way to make this a play which does not show that violence and as such does not feel like two hours of ruthless slaying. Among the very dark moments of the play are the brilliant words of Camus, brought to our English-speaking ears by David Grieg’s translation, which somehow manage to make the depraved and dark somewhat amusing and light.
Caligula is only on until Saturday 2 June so don’t miss out. Who knows when, or if, Adelaide will ever get to see Caligula again!
Tickets are available here.
Dates: 30 May – 2 June, nightly at 7:30pm.