Wednesday 20 June 2012, 15:47
On a dismal afternoon at the end of April, as the rain pours down outside, the cast and crew of Julius Caesar huddle in padded jackets around bright electric fires.
We are camped out in an abandoned and decaying shopping mall in north London.
But when the lamps are switched on and the camera turns over we are transported to the tropical temperatures of a modern African state and to an overheated world of conspiracy, assassination and revenge.
As he worked he was struck by the parallels between Shakespeare's tale of the violent overthrow of a dictator in ancient Rome, including its bloody aftermath, and the history of certain African states since independence.
The events of the unfolding Arab Spring seemed only to enhance the contemporary echoes.
With the same distinguished cast (including Paterson Joseph, Cyril Nri and Jeffery Kissoon) this television production complements the theatre version, which opened earlier this month to hugely enthusiastic reviews.
At the same time the film is a distinctive and original interpretation for the screen, with the spaces of the shopping mall allowing us to create a richly detailed African world and the camera achieving an exceptional intimacy with the motivations and the ideals, the hopes and the fears of Shakespeare's characters.
Brutus (Paterson Joseph) and Cassius (Cyril Nri) after the assassination of Caesar
On screen this is set on the shopping mall's escalator, where Caesar has paused in what we imagine to be the anonymous architecture beneath the Senate House.
So while this has been opened out as a spectacle for the camera the later appearance of Caesar's ghost before the climactic battle called for the tightest of shots filmed only an inch or so from Brutus' face.
In their very different ways both for me are highlights of the film: exciting and immediate and illustrative of how Shakespeare can still surprise and thrill audiences familiar with the political drama of The West Wing and The Killing.
None however will have made quite such sense as this African setting for Cassius' exultant - and chillingly prophetic - words just after he has plunged his dagger into Caesar's heart:
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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