3. Tragic love tale

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS -

Shake­speare’s Antony and Cleopa­tra con­tin­ues at TeManawa.

New York stands in for Rome, Chicago for the re­bel­lious Si­cily and Alexandria, Mis­sis­sippi for Cleopa­tra’s Egyp­tian cap­i­tal

ANTONY AND CLEOPA­TRA

by Wil­liam Shake­speare Di­rected by Joy Green for Prop­erj ob Pro­duc­tions Te Manawa July 9 – 18 Re­viewed by Richard Mays

Hats off to di­rec­tor Joy Green for bring­ing a play that’s not of­ten per­formed in New Zealand, to the lo­cal stage.

One of history’s fa­mous cou­ples, Antony and Cleopa­tra (un­like Romeo and Juliet) ac­tu­ally ex­isted, although Shake­speare messes with history for the sake of the drama.

The di­rec­tor has taken a num­ber of lib­er­ties her­self, set­ting the play in 1920s USA with the pro­tag­o­nists as ri­val pro­hi­bi­tion-era gang­sters. New York stands in for Rome, Chicago for the re­bel­lious Si­cily and Alexandria, Mis­sis­sippi for Cleopa­tra’s Egyp­tian cap­i­tal.

Shake­speare’s epic cast has been chopped in half with 13 per­form­ers play­ing the re­main­ing 15 roles, and the play has been edited to ac­com­mo­date this in a ‘‘win­ter Shake­speare’’ style for­mat.

As the right royal com­pli­cated and capri­cious Cleopa­tra, Sasha Lip­in­sky does hau­teur, en­nui and irony well, ex­ud­ing a dis­pas­sion­ate aloof­ness.

This cool ap­proach means

though the chem­istry be­tween her and Bruce Sin­clair’s Antony is still some­thing to work on, Antony’s heroic sta­tus and charisma could also han­dle some re­in­force­ment.

De­liv­ered at good pace, with off-stage tommy-gun bat­tles, the play is at times a con­fus­ing and awk­ward suc­ces­sion of short scenes across mul­ti­ple lo­cal­i­ties.

Then there’s the non-theatre venue.

Un­for­tu­nately, the boxy high glass-roofed echo cham­ber of Te Manawa’s in­ner atrium re­quires a pa­tient tune-in to hear the words, es­pe­cially from the rear of the stage.

Paul Lyons’ sen­si­tive pro­trayal of Eno­bar­bus, Antony’s con­flicted and con­science-stricken lieu­tenant, mas­ters it best by speak­ing softly and di­rectly from the front of the stage.

Si­mon Herbert as Oc­tavius, young em­peror-in-wait­ing, also man­ages to cut through the dis­tract­ing re­ver­ber­a­tion.

While the cos­tumes, mu­sic and set em­bel­lish­ments re­flect the art deco 20s, miss­ing was the flavour that an Amer­i­can ac­cent, a rak­ish gang­ster swag­ger or per­haps even a hint of Damon Run­yan could have brought to bol­ster, au­then­ti­cate and add char­ac­ter to this brave rein­ter­pre­ta­tion.

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PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/ FAIR­FAX NZ

Sasha Lip­in­sky as Cleopa­tra with Bruce Sin­clair as Antony in a 1920s-flavoured pro­duc­tion fea­tur­ing Shake­speare’s fa­mous cou­ple.

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