Monday, 30 April 2018

Antony & Cleopatra, April 27, 2018 ***

Written by William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare Company
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until May 13, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon April 30, 2018 & later in print. KH
Catherine McClements & Johnny Carr
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra are like a middle-aged Romeo and Juliet, but with an overwhelming lust for power that accompanies their long-standing love.

The play occurs between 40BC and 30BC when the powerful triumvirate of Antony (Johnny Carr), Octavius (Gareth Reeves) and Pompey (Lucy Goleby) form an alliance to rule the Roman Empire, but this unity eventually dissolves into war.

Performed on a pastel design (Anna Cordingley) that merges corporate lounge with plush hotel room, Peter Evans’ production omits any visible signs of military action or violent warfare, focusing instead on the backroom machinations and boozy revelry of Antony, Cleopatra, Pompey, Octavius and their retinues.

This modern perspective provides insight into the corporatised decision-making of war, but it leaves the production lacking a sense of danger, with the only bloodiness occurring at the death of Antony.

Dressed in a modern pants suit, Catherine McClements is engagingly mischievous and manipulative as the vain, powerful Queen Cleopatra, capturing her insecurity in love and her capricious rage when crossed.

Evans eliminates any sense of Cleopatra’s exoticism and beauty, and he also diminishes Cleopatra’s role as the sole powerful woman in this story by transforming the male Pompey into a woman far more powerful and glamorous than Cleopatra.

Johnny Carr effectively depicts Antony's dissolute behaviour and his later disillusionment, but his portrayal emphasises Antony's weakness, with no sense that he was ever powerful in the past. Carr seems miscast as Antony, looking more like a hipster barista rather than a powerful, ageing Roman General.

Ray Chong Nee is commanding as Enobarbus and the richness of his voice and his magnetic presence may well have suited the role of Antony.

There is little romantic chemistry between McClements and Carr, so the passion that is essential between this ardent couple is sadly missing.

Strangely, the most passionate scene in the production is the dying farewell between Cleopatra and her serving women, Charmian (Zindzi Okenyo) and Alexas (Janine Watson), capturing as it does their love and grief.

This contemporary interpretation of Antony and Cleopatra successfully depicts the backroom power plays but its modern interpretation lacks passion and coherence.

By Kate Herbert

Catherine McClements, Johnny Carr, Ray Chong Nee, Joseph Del Re, Lucy Goleby., Ursula Mills,  Zindzi Okenyo, Gareth Reeves, Steve Rodgers, Jo Turner,Janine Watson 
Designer Anna Cordingley
Lighting Designer Ben Cisterne
Composer & Sound Designer Max Lyandvert
Movement & Fight Director Nigel Poulton

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