REVIEW: Antony ϟ Cleopatra

A dramatically confident production let down by stuttering pace.

Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare Theatre

Lust, rebellion and the politics of power play out on an 80s stage.

Telling the story of the eponymous pair’s doomed affair, Antony ϟ Cleopatra flits between ancient Rome and Egypt as an unsuccessful revolution takes place. Seth Kruger brings swagger and a playboy attitude to Antony, a seductive potrayal that works well even at his fatal end. Opposite him, the gender-blind casting of Laura Pujos as Caesar was a strong choice as her gravitas and formal attitude commands a authoritarian presence across the performance. Their oppositional dynamic create a running tension throughout the play, summarising

the difficult relationship between Rome and Egypt. Beatriz Santos is a good Cleopatra, with a vulnerability to her that is an interesting choice. It’s not quite the domaneering Cleopatra presented in the original script, but her performance is effective regardless and Santos and Kruger have a chemistry that brings a natural realism to their relationship. Henry Eaton-Mercer’s confidence as Enobarbus is a stand-out, the ease with which he transitions from the poise of a seasoned and loyal solider to disillusioned betrayer is very impressive and shows great promise.

Seth Kruger and Beatriz Santos

Bringing Shakespeare into a “modern” period isn’t new. Antony ϟ Cleopatra’s 80s setting works relatively well,  primarily due to some inspired music choices, the contrast of psychedelic and industrial highlighting the parallel contrast between the paradise of Egypt and stern Rome. Costuming was consistent, all characters dressed in passable 80s outfits, Kruger’s baby blue suit a particular standout. This again worked well to separate Egypt and Rome, the austerity of the Romans playing effectively against the rave-like outfits of the Egyptians. The projections of cityspaces used to represent Rome were a clever compensation for the lack of set, and communicated well the geographical changes.  Beyond this, there wasn’t much of an effort to suggest an 80s setting outside as the set dressing was fairly basic and unthematic, begging the question of what the temporal shift was actually trying to communicate.

Henry Eaton-Mercer

Despite all this, the frequency and length of scene changes meant this production never quite takes off. Pembroke Cellars isn’t the most inspiring of backdrops, but regardless there is no need to have 11 people onstage rearranging a table for a 30 second scene. Technical issues also hindered the pace. Seeing the play on its second night would suggest the lighting should have performed without hiccup, yet there still were questionable blackouts and the lights coming up early during changes. The stage team should know that when they open a door repeatedly throughout a scene, the audience can see them peering out and makes an audible noise.

Laura Pujos

These issues, while minor in themselves, built up enough that they distracted from the action onstage. Antony and Cleopatra is a play that jumps from place to place, and whilst the actors capably handled the swiftness of the narrative, some elements of the technical side and stage management was poor enough to impact the pacing and make it seem irregular and incohesive.

Antony ϟ Cleopatra is almost an engergetic and engaging production. If the technical issues become magically resolved overnight then worth a watch, but ultimately the scene changes do irreparable damage to the enjoyment of watching an otherwise good show.

Rating: 3/5 stars