I think most people have heard of the famous Emperor of Caligula; a fierce ruler, with many a famous story about him, like any infamous Roman Emperor. Roman tales are rarely of happy exploits and kindness. And this has not stopped here.
Caligula and the Sea is a growing of age tale of Caligula, from boyhood to ruling an empire. With this, growing through adolescence and adulthood, through turbulent relationships with the God of the sea and his closest companion and how easily power can destroy those innocent relationships.
The production itself has taken an interesting approach; dressed in 1920 – 1940’s garb, there are still elements of ancient Rome, with miniature columns in the garden to Roman armour, it brings a modernity to the story, yet harking back to its roots. However, it did seem a little out of place and there wasn’t much to tie this together with the overall production or story.
The scene they created, with the overbearing blue sheet representing the sea, using this for movement and puppetry was well done and it added to the imposition that Neptune has in the narrative. It was a centre piece to the production, always looming and always above Caligula. It was in itself a visual metaphor to his downfall after thinking he was more than of the immortal power.
Neptune was represented as the waves, as a warrior, as a woman, as puppetry creatures, and this was interesting and mesmerising in the work that went into the different physicality and puppetry skills. It added to the concept of Gods being able to shape shift upon the Earth, yet they were also never frightening. The was something trustworthy, echoing Caligula’s relationship with the God.
The main performers of Caligula and Chaerea had a natural magnetism to one another; bouncing off each other as friends, as brothers, as lovers. In the blink of an eye we see their entire relationship as it evolves and the moments that it goes all too wrong. The heartbreak and turmoil – it becomes evident in Chaerea’s performance and you want only to reach out and support him.
Caligula and the Sea is a unique telling of the story of Caligula’s life and has many theatrical elements to enhance this summary of his rise and fall. It only felt a slight disconnect in the over all aesthetic and felt it would either benefit from completely immersing in one era or the other.