Printable CopyCALIGULA
Red Phoenix Theatre
Holden Street Theatres
Until 02 Jun 2018

Review by Anthony Vawser

Red Phoenix Theatre have once more been true to their mission, by presenting Adelaide audiences with something unusual and memorable. This would be reason enough to recommend that adventurous audiences take a chance on “Caligula”, but the fact that it also provides you with the opportunity to see a high-quality cast combining their considerable talents means that all those who crave something dark, rich, and strange should make this one a priority.

The third Roman Emperor, as depicted in this production of a text by legendary existentialist/absurdist philosopher Albert Camus (and translated by David Greig), is certainly an historical figure ripe for dramatization, due to his capacity for theatrical flourishes and tyrannical depravity. Whether or not you will feel that the time spent in this despot’s company is completely worthwhile, there is little chance of you being able to forget the experience any time soon.

The locally-renowned Robert Bell wraps the title role around him and wears it like a second skin (anyone wishing to connect this analogy to the iconic likes of movie monsters Leatherface and Buffalo Bill is more than welcome). While the slight resemblance of this production’s leading man to Malcolm McDowell (who played the same role in a notorious 1979 film of identical title) may or may not have been intentional, it enhances the visual impact of a performance that adds further dimension to Bell’s already enviable repertoire.

The ensemble cast provide all the solid support one would expect from such illustrious names as Brant Eustice, Tracey Walker, David Grybowski, and Lyn Wilson; among those also adding welcome splashes of colour and light humour to the generally intense proceedings are Malcolm Walton, David Lockwood, Adrian Barnes, and Joshua Coldwell. Credit for the sometimes-frightening and always-convincing stage violence presumably goes to both director Michael Eustice and choreographer Rebecca Kemp; the costume designs of Sharon Malujlo are another standout contribution.

”Caligula” is not a show that one gets to settle back comfortably in front of; the unpredictable temperament of its protagonist, combined with his penchant for deathly silences punctuated by bizarre declarations and impulsive behaviour, can make for uneasy viewing – but such is where the greatest rewards of live theatre are often found, so get along to Holden Street and see the latest impressive instalment in the continuing evolution of Red Phoenix Theatre.