Theatre review: Cleopatra at the Hope Theatre

Jordan Mallory-Skinner as Mardian
Mark Edel-Hunt as Mark Antony
Richard Mason as Octavius

Jordan Mallory-Skinner as Mardian Mark Edel-Hunt as Mark Antony Richard Mason as Octavius - Credit: Archant

Charmian, Cleopatra’s waiting woman, returns from Egypt with the news that the river has stopped rising because the Queen is not there to control it.

This is the kind of information Cleopatra is pleased to receive, but unfortunately the Romans have different ideas.

In Rome she is not a Queen. She is out of her depth, heavily dependent on her Roman lovers and lacking the dignity we associate with her as Queen of Egypt.

She is living in Rome on the wrong side of the Tiber as Caesar’s concubine, waiting for him to visit her.

He lives with her sporadically and they have made a child together – a child that the Romans refuse to acknowledge as his heir.

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They believe in strict self-discipline and are not at all convinced by her mind, her heart or her sexuality.

This is shown by her long scene with Brutus as she unsuccessfully tries to seduce him. Brutus has come to pick up Caesar and take him to the Senate – and it is the Ides of March! Director Mary Franklin has gathered together a talented cast. The very beautiful Shelley Lang plays Cleopatra as a spoilt child – completely losing her regal demeanour as she tries to endear herself to the unresponsive Romans and Mark Edel-Hunt is an oversexed, loutish Mark Antony.

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Hamish Macdonald is sufficiently pompous in the over-long Brutus scene and Richard Mason is effective as the youthful Octavius.

Iras is played by Alex Bedward and her report of Caesar’s death is well done and moving while Marianne Chase as Charmian carries on bonking with Antony. Definitely the most successful performance is by Jordan Mallory-Skinner as the acerbic scribe who is given to inventing more and more ridiculous ways of addressing his mistress in order to remain in her favour.

What Gareth Cadwallader has is a good idea, full of interesting detail. Unfortunately nobody seems quite certain yet how to handle it. The actors appear insecure in their roles and compensate by too much acting and it turns out as an uneven mixture of historical drama and Carry On Cleo.


Until February 1.

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