THREE AND A HALF STARS Shakespeare's Antony And Cleopatra, live from the National Theatre, London.
Ralph Fiennes, Sophie Okonedo
PERIOD DRAMA #ANTONYANDCLEOPATRA
The theme of tormented lovers got another run when Shakespeare turned his attention to the plight of Queen Cleopatra and her Roman lover Antony. The former warlord won her affection while loosing that of his own empire, setting the stage for a dramatic encounter with duty, loyalty, allegiance and that old favourite, guilt.
While Shakespeare never visited Egypt nor Rome, their story gave him all he needed to craft one of the enduring tragedies. Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes are under the strident direction of NT favourite Simon Godwin, and his version of ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA is nothing if not bold.
This 'live' version of the theatre production captures its deceptively simple staging (forget the eye-watering excess of Mankiewicz’s cinema classic - this is a stripped down yet finely crafted production) and focuses attention on the unfolding drama: Antony and Cleopatra determine love will conquer all. Of course it doesn’t for destiny has other plans.
Fortification is required for any audience hoping to get the most from ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. At 3 hours 30 including intermission, there’s a lot going on and much of it going on with great gusto. Neither Okonedo nor Fiennes hold back and their abundant energy takes a lot of keeping up with. Much like the play itself, one that has always taken the adjunct ‘epic’ most seriously indeed.