WHEN Canberra Grammar School contacted “CityNews” this week about the staging of its coming production, “Julius Caesar”, in a full-size professional boxing ring installed in the school’s Tim Murray Theatre, bells started to ring.The production is to be an adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous Roman play set in the 1920s in an underground boxing gym and the entire production takes place inside the boxing ring with, at one point, Caesar in one corner and Brutus in the other – very “boys only” by the sound of it.
When you’re also told that in addition to performing in a professional ring, the student actors have been participating in boxing training with a professional coach in order to really get into their parts, those bells become alarm bells.
“When Caesar returns to his boxing gym, the big man about town, his glowing reputation starts to intimidate his peers,” we are told.
“Cassius is particularly put out, and concerned that ‘Big Jules’ is not the right leader for the team. He turns to Brutus, offering him ego coaching and mentoring him for conquest. Soon team mates turn against team mates and the gloves come off. Who will rule Caesar’s Gym in the end?”
“CityNews” recalls that the very Tim Murray, the former CGS headmaster after whom the theatre is named, had a very particular view of pugilism for young schoolboys.
In “Ring of Truth”, a memorable short story written by Murray around 1997, and published in 1999 with other such stories under the title “Telling Tales: Glimpses of School Life in the Immediate Post-War Years”, Murray relates how, as a little schoolboy entering Geelong Grammar School in the 1950s, he had been obliged to undertake rounds of boxing as part of the famous headmaster Sir James Darling’s philosophy of turning young boys into icons of manliness.
The triumphant conclusion of Murray’s story comes when he returns as an adult to become drama teacher in his old school, and writes, “…years later I took great delight in having that very boxing ring cut up into small platforms and used as stage extensions from drama working that very hall”.
When he staged a theatrical version of “Lord of the Flies” on his boxing ring stage, he says, “a strange sense of irony did not escape me”.
When “CityNews” spoke to Murray by phone at his Toorak home yesterday, his sense of dramatic irony was running even stronger.
“It sounds as if it’s come full circle,” he told us.
“Julius Caesar”, ‘Caesar’s Gym’ @ Rear of Tim Murray Theatre, Cnr Monaro Cres & Golden Grove, Red Hill, 7.30pm March 20, 21 and 22, bookings to trybooking.cm\egui