Antony and Cleopatra - Theatre Review

A ‘restrained and passionless’ production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by the Royal Shakespeare Company falls flat at the Roundhouse in Camden.

SHAKESPEARE’S Antony and Cleopatra is meant to be a tale of high politics and even higher drama as the great players of the Egyptian and Roman worlds battle it out on stage.

But the Royal Shakespeare Company’s modern-dress production at the Roundhouse managed to turn this story of love and war into something that was, dare I say it, just a little boring.

Kathryn Hunter’s Cleopatra started off refreshingly catty and raunchy – but after a while, the shrill voice, shrew-like mannerisms and complete absence of regal bearing began to get wearing.

In contrast, Darrell D’Silva’s Mark Antony was more restrained and perhaps even a little flat.

The net result was that there was zero chemistry between them – and the idea that they could ever have been madly in love seemed completely improbable.

The other major players didn’t fare much better, with John Mackay’s teetotal Caesar coming across more like a bank manager than a world leader (his pin-striped suit didn’t help), and Clarence Smith’s gun-toting Pompey seeming to have been jetted in from a different play entirely.

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There were odd flashes of witty humour, particularly when Cleopatra quizzed her messenger on how she compared to love rival Octavia, while the dance-inspired scenes of Bacchanalian excess were wonderfully choreographed.

But none of that made up for the lack of erotic sizzle between the two protagonists, or the absence of dramatic tension between the scheming politicians – and ultimately the production just felt tired, farcical and somewhat confusing.

* Showing at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm Road, NW1, until Thursday, December 30.