'Julius Caesar is, simply, Shakespeare's African play' John Kani In 2012, actor Paterson Joseph played the role of Brutus in the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed production of Julius Caesar - Gregory Doran's first play for the RSC.
It is a play, Joseph is quick to acknowledge, that is widely neglected, misunderstood - even dreaded - when it comes to study and performance.
Through an incredibly rigorous process of getting to understand his character, the play, its context and the startling parallels with our world today, Paterson Joseph came to realise its power as a play, both dramatically and politically, and its numerous points of relevance for contemporary audience.
In this book, Joseph opens up the process of rehearsing and preparing for Julius Caesar and, by doing so, brings a greater understanding to the play's characters; its rhetoric and the power of rhetoric in general, both on and off stage; the play's setting and political context and how this can be interpreted and refreshed for the 21st century. Alongside offering fascinating insights into Julius Caesar and Shakespeare's writing, Joseph also serves up details of the rehearsal process; key collaborations during this time with major practitioners such as John Barton, Patsy Rodenburg, Cicely Berry, Sam Mendes, Steve Unwin, Nicholas Hytner and Declan Donnellan; and the experience of working with a majority white cast and the implications of this for himself and fellow black actors Adjoa Andoh, Ann Ogbomo and Samantha Lawson.
He considers the place of minority actors in Shakespeare plays in general, and audience reactions, citing numerous conversations he has had with psychologists, counselors and neurologists on the subject of what happens between performer and spectator.
For Paterson Joseph, his experience of playing Brutus in Julius Caesar with the RSC was a defining point in his career and a transformative experience.
For any actor or practitioner working on Shakespeare - or for any reader interested in his plays - this is a fascinating and informative read, which unlocks so much about making and understanding theatre from the inside.