by Gareth Cadwallader.
Hope Theatre 115 Upper Street Islington N1 1QN To 1 February 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm except 21 January.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 478 0160.
Review: William Russell 10 January.
Carry On Cleo.
Everyone knows where Julius Caesar was when he died, and the same goes for Cleopatra, mother of his sons. Less well known is that she was living in Rome in a house Caesar had provided at the time of his murder. Gareth Cadwallader’s play is set over the day in which that happened.
Cleopatra, feeling neglected by Caesar, is waiting for him to visit, tormenting her attendants, Charmian and Iris, abusing her secretary Mardian and making a play for Mark Anthony when he comes to call. She also tries her wiles on Octavius, a deliciously uptight Richard Mason, who has been designated his son and heir by Caesar. The situation is fascinating – why is Caesar playing hot and cold?
Cadwallader’s play is funny and exciting, and over all the nonsense indulged in by Cleopatra, queen, goddess, and Serpent of Old Nile, hangs the knowledge of what happens to them all. It really is no laughing matter.
Shelley Lang’s Cleopatra, sparkling-eyed and raven of hair, is gloriously volatile and dangerous as she throws tantrums, refuses to listen to anything she does not want to hear, and assaults Mark Antony, a willing victim. Mark Edel-Hunt’s Anthony comes across as a slightly out of condition rugby player, not all that bright, but very lusty and happy to dally with whatever lady is available, and Charmian is even more available than the Queen.
There is a lovely performance from Jordan Mallory-Skinner as Mardian the eunuch and secretary, watchful and world-weary, aware, unlike the others, of just how precarious things really are, and skilled at making sure people bow to the Queen, something Romans do not do. He also manages to suggest that given half a chance he would make a play for Mark Anthony.
Cadwallader’s amusing and witty play makes the goings-on seem like they were happening today, and fully deserves a larger venue and better production values. The Hope Theatre, an offshoot of the King’s Head, is a 50-seater; Mary Franklin’s production fits neatly into the available space. The only drawback is its seats are harder than those in the old King’s Head.
Cleopatra: Shelley Lang.
Marcus Brutus: Hamish MacDougall.
Mardian: Jordan Mallory-Skinner.
Iras: Alex Bedward.
Octavius: Richard Mason.
Charmian: Marianne Chase.
Mark Anthony: Mark Edel-Hunt.
Director: Mary Franklin.
Designer/Costume: Amy Job.
Lighting: Seth Rook Williams.