I have to admit that Antony and Cleopatra is one of my least favourite Shakespeare plays. For me, the action is too disjointed and the characters are less easy to engage with than in many of the other works. This year, however, has turned into the year of A&C and I have now reviewed two productions in the space of 3 months!
Central to the production is Helen Taylor’s regal performance of Cleopatra. She finds the warmth and wit of the character but never lets us forget that she is a Queen. There is a clarity to her acting which lights up the stage. Tim Younger gives able support as a very robust Antony – though perhaps their passion needs a little more fire to fully take flight.
Of the supporting cast, Enorbarbus has the best lines and Colin Burnie makes good use of them. Along with the leading pair, he makes every word count in the garden setting – something that many of the less experienced cast members would be well advised to work on.
The direction and design work well to ensure that we are always aware of the identities and allegiances of the various characters. The cutting and combining of roles is, on the whole, handled well – simplifying and clarifying the action without dumbing down.
There are performance and minor technical niggles which, being opening night (after some heavy rain), one can forgive. The production does have the option of an indoor venue should the current changeable conditions persist. However it has been designed to work best in the open air and I hope audiences get to experience the full effect.
I do not think that either of the productions I have seen this year have persuaded me to love the text but I do have to say that Oxford Theatre Guild make a more cogent case for the play than the RSC did.