Antony and Cleopatra - Review

In staging Shakespeare's epic tale of tragic love and imperialistic war, director Martin Nichols sought to give the play a topical edge by having the cast in modern dress. The tale of the doomed lovers is told against the backdrop of military action and constantly changing alliances.

The structure of this play is that it is made up of over 40 scenes, some of which are quite short. This episodic approach leads to a jerky narrative rather than a free flowing story. As many of the scenes are reports of how a battle is progressing they tended to remind one of sound bites from a television news channel. As such they fitted in well with Martin's staging.

Not only has the text so many scenes but they are also set in 37 locations! –- a major problem for any director and his technical crew. In this production stage dressing was kept to a minimum and the location changes cleverly achieved through skilful lighting changes and sound effects.

In addition to directing the play Nichols also took on the role of Antony and gave a full blooded and passionate performance. However Marina Norris's performance of Cleopatra started off a little bit lightweight –- she was too skittish and lacking in majesty, more Princess Di rather than a Queen — but as the play progressed, when she eased up the body movements and let the words take over, Marina gave us a sensuous and imperious woman. The scenes leading up to and including her death were most powerful.

Amongst a large cast Gary Blair stood out as Enobarbus as did Robert Maloney in a variety of roles. However, I found it difficult to accept Michael Weedon's portrayal of Octavius Ceasar. Both his body movements and vocal delivery were too mannered and lacking in naturalism.

The production was a brave effort to tackle a difficult piece and provided the opportunity of hearing some of Shakespeare's finest love poetry.

Barrie Jerram