A large portion of Caesar Must Die’s impact stems from its concept: a production of Julius Caesar performed by the inmates of the high-security wing of Rome’s Rebibbia Prison. We are introduced to the cast first through their audition tapes – a humorous montage of over-acting studded with shreds of raw talent – and then via their rap sheets: drug trafficking, Mafioso connections, murder. Though not to be mistaken for documentary (the fly-on-the-wall rehearsals are evidently as staged as the final performance), this combination of real-life criminality and theatrical skulduggery exerts a galvanic fascination.
Even in its heavily abridged form, Shakespeare’s tragedy remains a gripping study of power and honour, with talk of justice acquiring added ironic inflections in the mouths of such a notorious troupe. On occasion, a maladroit heavy-handedness creeps in (“since I got to know art, this cell has become a prison” laments one actor), but Caesar Must Die otherwise delivers a compelling and considered take on immemorial themes. [Chris Buckle]