Antony & Cleopatra – directed by Simon Godwin for National Theatre

We don’t go down to London to the theatre that often but occasionally I spot something that looks interesting and we go.  This was one of those times and I’ve been looking forward to it for about 6 months.  I was also interested to see how much I agreed with the Sunday Times review of last week.

I’m never quite sure how I feel about the revolving stage at the Olivier Theatre.  It’s good in that it allows the scenery to move quickly and noiselessly from one place to another, in this instance from warm, sunny Egypt to high-tech, cooler Rome.  The problem is that it sometimes dominates the action and instead of support the action it becomes the action.  This was particularly the case when it became the submarine.  Too faffy and it could have been done in a simpler way that interrupted the flow of the play less.

I liked the modern setting and I thought Katy Stephens was a suitably martial Agrippa.  I suspect the traditionalist chap we spoke to before the performance wouldn’t have liked either.

Sophie Okonedo was the stand out performance for me.  Her Cleopatra was alive, capricious, beautiful and queenly. She made you understand why both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony had fallen head over heels in love with her.

Ralph Fiennes, as Antony, was competent, as you would expect from such a good actor, but I was a bit disappointed and felt he was holding back, not truly bringing the character to life.

Tunji Kasim, who I know is a good actor, spectacularly failed to display the ruthless effectiveness of the young Caesar plotting and manipulating his way to becoming dictator. Enobarbus seemed to be talking through his nose, which made him a bit difficult to understand at times. The rest of the cast was mostly ok but I felt that when they were on stage plotting their Roman shenanigans I was just waiting for Cleopatra to return.

Overall, I’m glad we went to see it, a little disappointed in its execution and am adding Sophie Okonedo to my list of actors I will try to see in whatever they do.

 

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