Wednesday, December 13, 2017

'Antony & Cleopatra' by William Shakespeare

13 December 2017

On Tuesday I was at the Barbican in London to see the Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘Antony & Cleopatra’ starring Antony Byrne and Josette Simon. Incredibly, I last saw Josette Simon on stage in 1995 as Katherina in Mihai Maniutiu’s brilliant production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ at Leicester Haymarket. 22 years later, she is still a striking, mercurial performer, playing a capricious Cleopatra with a childlike playfulness and petulance. I had never previously seen ‘Antony & Cleopatra’. It’s one of those Shakespeare plays that relies on people immediately and unquestioningly believing the word of a messenger who arrives to tell them someone has died – without any evidence of the veracity of the message. But the central relationship between Mark Anthony and the Queen of Egypt is very believable and well played in Iqbal Khan’s production. I also liked Ben Allen who plays Octavius Caesar as a public schoolboy who feels upset and disappointed when his opponents won’t play fair. The original music, composed by Laura Mvula, is an interesting mix of rock, folk and classical which uses a worldless female singer (Zara McFarlane) to create a mystical, ancient world feel.

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