Entertainment

RSC epic will be 'like Rome meets the West Wing'

Imperium poster and the West Wing's Martin Sheen Image copyright RSC/NBC

“It’s like Rome meets the West Wing.”

That’s how the Royal Shakespeare Company has described its new “epic” production set in Ancient Rome.

Imperium: The Cicero Plays are based on the best-selling novels by Robert Harris: Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator.

If the poster is anything to go by, expect flaming buildings and angry mobs.

And, like Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed TV drama set largely in the West Wing of the White House, there will be plenty of political intrigue.

Harris’s trilogy tells the story of the rise and fall of the great Roman orator and statesman Cicero.

The stage version will be split into six plays, presented in two performances on different evenings. That’s about six hours of drama in all.

Harris said: “There could hardly be a more timely moment to look at the collapse of the Roman Republic, a political institution destroyed by ambition, money and unscrupulous demagogues who treated the laws with contempt.”

‘Curious fact’

Imperium’s director Gregory Doran agreed the stories resonated with contemporary events.

And Harris, he noted, is a former political correspondent with inside knowledge of “the corridors of power”.

The plays will be written by Mike Poulton, who has plenty of experience of adapting books for the stage.

His most recent work for the RSC was his adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which tell the story of Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell.

Harris, who also wrote Fatherland, Enigma, Pompeii and The Ghost, said: “It’s a curious fact that Shakespeare in his Roman plays gives hardly any lines to Cicero, arguably the greatest orator in history.

“So I’m especially delighted that through the RSC his voice will at last be heard on stage in Stratford.”

Imperium: The Cicero Plays will run at the RSC’s Swan Theatre from 16 November to 10 Feb 2018.


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