Review: Antony and Cleopatra for CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 fm

by Lynn on July 10, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Friday, July 10, 2020. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm. ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA the Stratford Festival on Youtube until July 23. This is the radio script.

Good Friday morning. It’s Theatre fix time with me, Lynn Slotkin, your theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

The Stratford Festival might be closed because of the pandemic but they are still making their productions available on line through streaming etc.

One of their filmed productions is Antony and Cleopatra that played on the Stratford stage in 2014 but  streaming on the Stratford Festival youtube channel now until July 23 for free.

It’s a play loaded with political intrigue, hubris, psychological mind-games, one-upmanship, and follows one of the greatest love-stories of all time between Mark Antony, a mighty Roman warrior and Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt.

Both Mark Antony and Cleopatra are consummate politicians.

Mark Antony earned his abilities as the right hand man of Julius Caesar (before Caesar was killed) and being watchful and quiet as he followed the political intrigue of Caesar’s court.

Cleopatra was at once the consort of Julius Caesar as well as the Queen of Egypt.

She too earned her wiliness by being perceptive in the ways of manipulating people.

As a couple, Antony and Cleopatra were in love and lust with each other.

He was more besotted than she seems to be—she tended to play games with him if he displeased her, ignoring him, playing hard to get.

He had his way of playing her game as well.

It was a volatile time for both—war was always imminent.

As a consummate politician Antony knew how to broker deals even if it meant marrying someone other than Cleopatra, which happened when Antony married Octavius Caesar’s sister, Octavia.

This didn’t go down too well with Cleopatra when she found out.

The relationship between then often seemed like a game of cat and mouse, with Antony seeming like the mouse much of the time.

Which is not to say that he could play his games with Cleopatra.

While their love is obvious, their cold-blooded ambition for dominance with others is also fascinating to see.

Gary Griffin directed the stage play at Stratford.

But for our purposes, Barry Avrich directed the filmed version of the live performance.

It’s a terrific result.

In the theatre the audience might or might not see a reaction that is subtle from a character not at the centre of a scene.

In this filmed version Avrich ensures that all that subtext is obvious by focusing the camera on the actor with the reaction.

A grimace or side-long look at something that is being said is caught clearly in a tight closeup.

The stage production was lusty, bawdy, sexual, passionate and very physical.

All that is accentuated in the filmed version with tight close-ups and medium shots that never misses what we are to see.

As Antony, Geraint Wyn Davies is exuberant, emotional, larger than life, smart and cunning but with total charm.

He is equally matched by Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra.

Her Cleopatra is supremely confident in her sensuality and her royal stature.

This is a character who has been revered for so many things and she takes control of all of it.

It’s fascinating to see how these two lovers circle one another, play one another and play with one another.

As emotional as Marc Antony is, that is as cool as Octavius Caesar is as played by Ben Carlson.

Octavius is methodical, quiet speaking and makes his points as if flinging darts at a bull’s eye.

He is incensed when he realizes that his sister has been humiliated by Antony who married her just for political expediency.

And as soon as Antony could, he ran off to be with Cleopatra.

The cast is uniformly strong.

Charlotte Dean has created a simple, spare set.

Her costumes are beautiful in creating this exotic world of an Egyptian Queen and her court, and the fighting world of Mark Antony and his fellow Roman soldiers.

This is a clean, focused, beautifully rendered filmed version of the Stratford production of Antony and Cleopatra.

For those who missed it then, this is a fine opportunity to check it out and the other Stratford Productions that are streaming on the Stratford youtube channel.

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