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