‘Brutus and Cassius are levying powers,” Mark Antony (Darrell D’Silva) announces to his fellow Triumvirs Lepidus (James Gale) and Octavius (Joseph Arkley). “We must straight make head,” he continues, illustrating his point by tossing away the severed head he has been casually caressing during their conference. For sure, the RSC’s new production of Julius Caesar, from first-time Stratford director Lucy Bailey, spares us none of the violence of ancient Rome as it is reflected in the play.

The episode is typical, too, of the grim humour Bailey is able to find in the piece. There is more dug, for instance, unusually, from the early scene in which Cassius (John Mackay) works to recruit his good-sort friend Brutus (Sam Troughton) into the conspiracy to butcher Caesar. Having described his role in rescuing the great warlord from his near-fatal swim in the Tiber, the scheming senator concludes: “And this man/Is now become a god,” his voice rising on that final word to a tone of wild incredulity. (That it’s a Scottish voice only adds to the comic effect.) We laugh, too, as we must, when the sharp-witted Caesar (Greg Hicks), fearful of the “lean and hungry” Cassius, expresses his wish to be surrounded only by men that are fat — and then suddenly realises that in Antony, his confidant in the matter, that is all-too-obviously what he has. Hicks, already offering a memorable Leontes in Stratford’s current Winter’s Tale, gives us another arresting performance in this, the third production from the RSC’s 44-strong ensemble company. His appearance as a ghost before Philippi inevitably recalls his portrayal of the slain King Hamlet, dragging an enormous sword through the stalls in the Memorial Theatre five years ago. So fine a spectre does he make now that the director brings him back, unscripted, to administer the coup de grace to Brutus in the closing scene.

Of medium height and whippet-thin, his Caesar is far from the “colossus” we hear spoken of. But then his enemies, for their part, hardly seem mighty figures either, certainly on the moral front. As for political nous, Brutus shows a total lack of it in his lunatic (if principled) decision to allow Antony’s funeral oration. Its mob-rousing fervour is well presented in D’Silva’s excellent performance.

As for that mob, their number is swollen (so, too, later that of the soldiers) by the clever use of video footage, which presents us with waves of humanity gesticulating and marching beneath the battlements and porticos of a blazing Rome. This provides much for the eye to savour, even as there is much horror (of the kind usually found in Titus Andronicus and King Lear) from which to avert the gaze.

Until October 2. Box office: tel, 0844 800 1110 (www.rsc.org.uk).