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Art Film Caesar: Julius at the GV Art Gallery (***)

This theatrical experiment is a multi-part semi-operatic video production on the theme of a young man’s obsession with Julius Caesar. There are some beautiful effects, but as it stands this is a work-in-progress inviting audience participation and input: it will be interesting to see how this develops in the future. At the GV Art Gallery.

Elastic Theatre’s latest theatrical experiment Julius sees them collaborating with film company Savage Mills to create an inventive multi-part video production, which was running at GV Art Gallery last month. The first stage in an interactive theatrical process, Julius not only discusses obsession, but encourages viewers to submit their own obsessions to be the next step in creating the next stage of this piece.

Julius, which runs over three projections (two walls leading to a corner and the ceiling), charts the beginning of a young man’s obsession with Julius Caesar and the 33 cuts that ended his life. In this semi-operatic production, many a character sings rather than speaks, which is used as a reference to the thoughts that particularly invade the mind of young Julius. Throw in a nagging mother, a friend on a unicycle and some clever VFX, and you have the first act of this new piece.

And that’s all there currently is at the moment – this is very distinctly work-in-progress, although the video itself is already edited and worked to very high production values. The interactivity comes in next: the audience are encouraged to respond to the piece, either with their own obsessions or suggestions for how the story could develop, by an exhibition running alongside with fragments from the devising process. Elastic Theatre also ran a number of interactive events throughout the showing, including live versions of the film in the tiny courtyard around the back of the gallery.

So, what to say as a critique? Well, it’s not complete – there is a sense of an arc and a collection of characters being created, but it stops very abruptly, which isn’t particularly satisfying. Also, I personally find it difficult to accept that such a multi-person organised and arranged piece will ever have a particularly solid through-line: necessarily, the project needs to remain open-ended enough to encourage others to join in, which has also led Elastic Theatre to work in a very inclusive way, which shows in a final piece that isn’t particularly settled.

However, what is there is intriguing. There’s a strong Italian vibe to the whole piece, despite the characters speaking English, with costumes and props placing us in mid-1900s Italy despite the complete lack of set. It would be interesting to see if the piece settles into something that can incorporate the Roman connection to the Facist party, although what comes for now is mere speculation, I suppose. The camera work and colour palette is excellent, and the multi-screen use is engaging and fun to watch, with your eye bouncing all over the place trying to keep up but never losing focus. The performers, who often speak directly down the lens, are also engaging, although Chiara D’Anna’s overexaggerated Italian mother does chew the non-existent scenery far too much and feels very out of place.

As it’s work-in-progress, who knows what will come next – and where the project will go. This version of it (until October 14th) can be viewed online as part of the OCD Film Fest in Texas, but what the piece becomes next will depend on how Elastic interpret the responses to their work. I’m certainly intrigued, but there needs to be something a little more solid for the piece to bear proper fruit. For now, it’s a nice idea in need of more development.


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