by William Shakespeare.

The Roundhouse Chalk Farm NW1 8EH In rep to 30 December 2010.
28, 30 Dec 7.15pm.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 482 8008.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 December.

Rome: 2; Egypt: 0 in what should be a play of equals.
Alongside star-crossed Romeo and Juliet, an older pair of Shakespearean lovers take to the Roundhouse stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s winter season.

This London home fits Stratford’s productions like a glove. But it’s a glove for a badly-played hand, here, though director Michael Boyd starts well enough, with a few lines of – well, foreplay – between the lovers, motivating the script’s opening conversation between two of Antony’s officers about his dotage on Cleopatra.

John Mackay has a calculating emotional coldness as Caesar – recalling his chilling Soviet official at Stratford in the underrated Grain Store. But Martin Hutson’s performance in the role at Liverpool last October had a chill even more distinctive for the actor’s apparent mildness of feature. The RSC’s Darrell D’Silva is good, if not someone with the charisma quite of a world-leader, or an earth-moving lover.

It’s Kathryn Hunter’s Cleopatra that raises most questions. Hunter fearlessly plays her as advanced in years (she must have been at least “half-blasted” when Antony met her) and physically not at all unwithered, despite Enobarbus’ praise – which must refer to the queen’s unflagging energy. Playful as she is, she and D’Silva’s efficient, camouflage-wearing Antony suggest they might well have the quarrels but hardly the loving reconciliations.

Hunter might have appeared a good bet to suggest aspects of Cleopatra’s character that few performances could reach – the poetic intensity she gave to a mere recital of events in The Grain Store’s epilogue being just one example of her ability to evoke the reach of human experience.

But that worked through apparent innocence, which doesn’t apply much to Cleopatra, and the performance flails about for effect. Elsewhere, Peter Shorey provides an apt cameo as Antony’s old teacher, Sandy Neilson shows how ineffectual Lepidus is alongside the two real leaders, while also suggesting a certain executive ability that might have made him seem a viable third man when they set up their regime. And Greg Hicks’ black-clad Soothsayer, quietly confident of his words and keeping back from the rest of the world, has a force not found where it should be in this play.

Mark Antony: Darrell D’Silva.
Caesar: John Mackay.
Lepidus: Sandy Neilson.
Cleopatra: Kathryn Hunter.
Charmian: Hannah Young.
Iras: Samantha Young.
Alexas: Larrington Walker.
Mardian: Tunji Kasim.
Diomedes: Paul Hamilton.
Soothsayer: Greg Hicks.
Seleucus/Menecrates: Peter Shorey.
Enobarbus: Brian Doherty.
Ventidius: Charles Aitken.
Scarus: Adam Burton.
Eros: Katy Stephens.
Maecenas: James Gale.
Agrippa: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Thidias: James Tucker.
Varrius: Ansu Kabia.
Proculeius/Menas: Phillip Edgerley.
Octavia: Sophie Russell.
Pompey: Clarence Smith.

Director: Michael Boyd.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Lighting: Wolfgang Gobbel.
Sound: Andrew Franks.
Music: James Jones, John Woolf.
Music Director: James Jones.
Text/Voice work: Alison Bomber.
Movement: Anna Morrisey.
Additional movement: Struan Leslie.
Assistant director: Helen Leblique.

2010-12-30 01:29:34

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