Sometimes you have to admit you got it wrong and these screenings by the National Theatre of Simon Godwin’s fine modern dress production which I reviewed in January last year, while it said that Sophie Okenedo’s Cleoptra was very good found that the evening belonged to Ralph Fiennes as a slightly over the hill Anthony being outwitted by all around. It doesn’t as other reviewers realised and as becomes perfectly clear from these transmissions. Okenedo is amazing, sensual, capricious, fickle, every inch a queen and the play still holds its grip in the scenes following Anthony’s death. As always there are changes – it opens, for instance, with Cleopatra dead – and as is the fashion some roles are played by female actors written for men. But it makes no difference and works anyway in a modern day setting. I am not going to repeat that review, because what I said still holds true, just admit that it failed to give Okenedo her due. She is magnificent throughout. It all looks splendid on the screen, which suits Hildegard Bechtler’s sets perfectly, indeed enhances them. They were impressive enough in the Olivier, but on screen they are even better. It really is a production not to miss, and, if you saw it, one to revisit. The problem with national theatres is their audiences are drawn from their surrounds. But films like this give everyone a chance to see them and it is a chance not to be missed.
Photoraph: Johan Persson.