Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Caligula and the Sea, Yuxuan Liu, VAULT Festival ★★★☆☆

Tragically beautiful, Caligula and the Sea explores one man’s relationship with the world around him and how he battles with his desire to find his rightful place. Caligula is a young man struggling with his identity while growing up on the island of Capri. When the play starts he is yearning to leave the island and to claim Emperor, but he refuses to pander to the Gods. However once Caligula meets Neptune and embraces the mighty power of the God of the Sea he begins to lose himself… or perhaps he finds his truest self?

The use of puppetry was stunning in this play. Gods and monsters roam in this fictionalised world of ancient Greece and the puppetry introduced a magical element to the performance, executed with precision by Riko Nakazono. A large expanse of blue on stage fluttered and plumed throughout the piece and brought the character of the ocean to life before my eyes. It was mesmerising and a constant reminder that Neptune has a hand in Caligula’s fate. However some of the puppets look cheaply made, seemingly just cardboard stuck together and they stick out like sore thumbs against the beautifully crafted Neptune puppet.

Ultimately Caligula and the Sea is a story about love and corruption. Caligula betrays the ones he loves most to get more power, and develops a twisted sense of self as he gains more and more control. Eventually he thinks he is more powerful than the entire ocean, and this becomes his undoing. His closest confidant Cassius must choose between his love for Caligula and the fear of what will happen if he does not put an end to his rule of terror.  Cassius is played with passion by Felix Ryder, and his chemistry with Noah Silverstone’s Caligula is palpable. Their relationship is a red thread throughout the story and the two characters are foils to each other, their conflicts driving the plot. 

Silverstone captures the Emperor’s petty, childish and sinister constitution with ease, however their performance was quite one-note. I would have loved to see a softer and more likable side to Caligula when we first meet him as a young man, I think it would ensure that the latter scenes of his nasty malicious behavior have a greater impact.

I thoroughly enjoyed that I did not need any prior knowledge of the history of Caligula and the myth of him waging war on the ocean in order to enjoy this play. I’m not someone who knows the classics, yet I still followed the story of Caligula and the Sea, and I have to imagine if you were a history buff you would enjoy this piece even more than me.

Recommended Drink: Red wine of course.

Showings of Caligula and the Sea have now concluded at VAULT Festival. Keep up with the company on social media for future showings.

Holly Richards

Holly studied English Literature and Drama at university and loves sinking her teeth into every kind of performance, however she reserves a special place in her heart for anything movement based from clowning to dance theatre.

Festivals: VAULT Festival (2023)
Pronouns: She/Her