Antony and Cleopatra, NT, 4****: William Russell


Antony and Cleopatra

By William Shakespeare.

4 ****

In repertoire to 19 January 2019.

At 7pm – check dates with the theatre.

Runs 3 hr 30 mins One interval.

Broadcast in cinemas on Thursday 6 December.

TICKETS: 020 7452

Review: William Russell 27 September.

An ageing Antony, an alluring Cleopatra

Ralph Fiennes is magnificent as Antony in this modern dress production directed by Simon Godwin which makes full use of the vast Olivier stage for this most sprawling of Shakespeare’s plays. As Cleopatra Sophie Okonedo is spritely and perverse, a creature not to be trusted. She is very good indeed, but it is Fiennes’ Antony one watches, middle aged, past his prime, debauched and incapable of dealing with the ice cold, calculating Octavian played by Tunji Kasim. Look at Octavian’s immaculate uniforms, his old maid behaviour and then at Antony, first seen in a ridiculous pair of bell bottom pants and a floral shirt open to the naval displaying a figure going to seed, and later stuffed into combat gear just that little bit too tight.

The problem with the play is that after Antony dies it takes possibly too long for Cleopatra to decide to send for the asps having finally realised there is no place for her in Octavian’s world other than a humiliating parade through Rome as his captive. It is a long evening at the best of times, but Godwin keeps the action moving and Hildegard Bechtier’s sets are hugely impressive.

There is a lot to see, notably a splendid drunken scene when the triumvirate, Octavian, Lepidus and Antony meet Pompey to try to secure some sort of peace which deteriorates spectacularly with Antony intent on ravishing Octavian as the young officers take their clothes off ready to play and Lepidus collapses in a drunken stupor. It breaks up with Octavian not suffering a fate worse than death but the point about how the golden Antony has declines into a middle age of selfishness, drink and lust is made.

The play opens with Cleopatra and her maids dead, and then the light changes, we are in her palace and the action begins. It is a striking change and gets things under way without any need to explain. Gloria Obianyo is an impressive statuesque Charmian, Tim McMullan a fine Enobarbus, and the fact that some male roles are played by women works perfectly in this modern military world.

Okonedo shines most in Act One, while Fiennes firing on all cylinders dominates Act Two. His is a performance not to be missed.

Caesar: Tunji Kasim.

Agrippa: Katy Stephens.

Cleopatra: Sophie Okonedo.

Antony Ralph Fiennes.

Eros: Fisayo Akinade,

Charmian: Gloria Obianyo.

Iras: Georgia Landers.

Soothsayer: Hiba Elchikhe.

Enobarbus: Tim McMullan.

Proculeius: Ben Wiggins.

Sicyon Official: Shazia Nicholls.

Lepidus: Nicholas Le Prevost.

Thidia:Sam Woolf.

Pompey: Sargon Yelda.

Menas: Gerald Gyimah.

Varius: Waleed Hammad.

Euphronius: Nick Sampson.

Octavia: Hannah Morrish.

Canidius: Alan Turkington.

Sicarus: Alexander Cobb.

Ventidius: henry Everett.

Director: Simon Godwin.

Set Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.

Costume Designer: Evie Gurney.

Lighting Designer: Tim Lutkin.

Music: Michael Brune.

Movement Directors: Jonathan Goddard & Shelley Maxwell.

Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt.

Video Designer: Luke Halls.

Music Director: Magnus Mehta.

Fight Director: Kev McCurdy.

Production Photography: Johan Persson.


ReviewsGate Copyright Protection