ANTONY & CLEOPATRA
by William Shakespeare.
Rooftop Amphitheatre Said Business School Park End Street OX1 1HP To 3 September 2011.
Mon-Sat 7pm Mat Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 August.
Fresh and lively production even on a dismal night.
Whatever the travails faced by Shakespeare’s Roman general and his lass unparalleled, they didn’t include the British summer. Thankfully, Creation Theatre persisted outdoors, with a poncho-protected audience, in a play especially benefiting from this amphitheatre venue, suggesting vast areas at stake as it overlooks a courtyard where, at one point, a Messenger can be seen fleeing Cleopatra’s violent response to unwelcome news.
Jane Tennison’s concise production suggests ancient and modern – ruined classical columns, mixed-period costume: the Romans in modern, tight-fitting, dark-hued uniforms, matched by their sharp, diagonal arm-across-chest salutes – the gesture which forcefully closes the evening.
There’s a contrast between Roman and Egyptian. After an opening Egyptian dance in animal masks, a Roman soldier rips off his mask to complain of Antony’s “dotage”; the two groups recurrently share the stage, while battle action happens around Cleopatra’s court.
And between male and female. Antony’s reasoning sits at odds with Cleopatra’s sense of emotional reality. When love combines them, it creates a 3D sense of the world no-one else achieves. Including Dominic Brewer’s purposeful but emotionally-embarrassed Caesar, happy with cold political calculation, even in his final apparent consideration towards Cleopatra. This is a leader who shouts at the sister rejected by her husband Antony, kicking over her luggage and leaving her to carry it.
Lizzie Hopley’s Cleopatra has a sense of instant, if not quite infinite, variety, while Tom Peters’ Antony, appearing in Rome with his army sash pulled roughly on, contrasts the others’ smart turn-out.
Alas, at times, Peters underplays the verse. But he and Hopley are a strong central couple, while Richard Kidd’s Enobarbus, mocking the Egyptian Soothsayer’s mannerisms and finding depth when his loyalty to Antony’s finally over-stretched, has the character’s measure. James Burton contrasts several tough officers with a camp Pompey; unsurprisingly, the idea of his counter-plot is cut.
Raewyn Lippert’s alert Iras and Lucy-Anne Holmes’ lively Charmian, who fancies the Messenger and risks the queen’s wrath by signalling him the ‘right’ answers to her questions, are strong in a revival that may lack some of the play’s poetic amplitude but has a narrative drive and fresh intelligence.
Camidius/Pompey/Agrippa/Thidias: James Burton.
Cleopatra: Lizzie Hopley.
Antony: Tom Peters.
Charmian/Menas: Lucy-Anne Holmes.
Soothsayer/Eros/Lepidus/Dollabella: James Howard.
Iras/Octavia/Caesar’s Auxilia: Raewyn Lippert.
Mardian/Caesar: Dominic Brewer.
Enobarbus/Cleopatra’s Messenger/Dercetus/Clown: Richard Kidd.
Director: Helen Tennison.
Designers: Neil Irish, Sarah Bacon.
Lighting: Ashley Bate.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Composer: Ben Davies.
Masks: Ellan Parry.
Fight director: Philip d’Orleans.