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24 September 2014

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Tragedy and humour meet head on at RST

Antony and Cleopatra
Much discussion over Antony and Cleopatra
The curtain-opener to the Royal Shakespeare Company's summer season at the RST, Antony and Cleopatra, has received mixed reviews. Our reviewer can see why.

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Review by Ben Whitehouse, site user

Tragedy and humour fight each other in this engrossing and weighty Royal Shakespeare Company production of "Antony and Cleopatra".

Designer Es Devlin has given the audience an open set on which the decadence, which begins playfully and quickly darkens, can be played out.

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Stuart Wilson comes across as wishing he could sound like Richard Burton but look like Anthony Hopkins and only succeeds in irritating.
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Ben Whitehouse
Location is indicated by the simplest lighting change and shifting of a throw over a chair and Michael Attenborough's direction provides somewhat fluid transitions between those changes.

We always know where we are but the action moves from Egypt to Rome as swiftly on stage as it can in one's imagination.

I can't decide if Attenborough has made Antony as annoying as possible on purpose. Stuart Wilson comes across as wishing he could sound like Richard Burton but look like Anthony Hopkins and only succeeds in irritating.

 Antony and Cleopatra
Stuart Wilson and Sinead Cusack as Antony and Cleopatra
That said, a strong and youthful cast supports Sinead Cusack and Wilson and at times outshines them.

Stephen Campbell-Moore is amazing as Octavius Caesar. He comes across as a schoolboy thrust into the limelight by the old age of both Antony and Lepidus (Clifford Rose, splendid as a doddering Triumvir) but doesn't sink to mere stereotype.

I found myself rooting for Caesar more and more as the evening progressed. I'm sure that we're really supposed to be sympathetic to Antony and Cleopatra.

 Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
Noma Dumezweni and Kirsten Parker deliver thoughtful and powerful performances as Cleopatra's waiting women. These are not mere maids but women with minds of their own.

Antony and Cleopatra is a complex play dealing with diverse issues, among them narcissism and politics.

Cleopatra is the queen of spin and Antony is as repellent as a boozy member of parliament; but are this middle aged Romeo and Juliet relevant today?

Antony and Cleopatra continues at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until July 13.

Our reviewers are all volunteers and receive no payment.

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