It was a bit of a coup for Liverpool Everyman to attract Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall to play Cleopatra and it was a similar coup for Chichester to bring the production to the festival – albeit with a new Antony, Michael Pennington replacing Jeffery Kissoon.
In her programme notes, Janet Suzman says that her production wants to examine Cleopatra as a political animal rather than the seductress of legend. The vision, however, is a long way from the reality. Blonde-haired and husky-voiced, Cattrall is wonderfully coquettish but her performance fails to capture the broader challenges of the role. Nor does she quite handle the mercurial moods of the play – her attack on the messenger bringing news of Antony's marriage is half-hearted, no hints of the capricious ruler.
Mind you for all her sexual wiles, she’d have a job rousing Pennington’s Antony who seems strangely resistant to Cleopatra's charms. With his leonine mop of white hair, he does look indeed like the aged lion of Enobarbus' description. However, he speaks the verse beautifully, capturing perfectly the voice of a man fully aware that his powers are on the wane and lapping up his last hurrahs.
The best performance is from Martin Hutson as Octavius. We've become accustomed to seeing Caesar as an inhibited youth, but Hutson brings that to a new level. He looks to be physically suffering as he comes to terms with the realities of power.
There's got to be something wrong with a production of Antony and Cleopatra when one finds oneself wishing there'd be more of Octavius, but that's how little spark Cattrall and Pennington produced. They both have their moments but, sadly, not enough.