Antony and Cleopatra (1987): Contact Theatre, Manchester
PrAntony and Cleopatra (1987)
CAST INCLUDED: Clare Dow (Cleopatra); Wyllie Longmore (Mark Antony); Frank Moorey (Enobarbus); Peter Rumney (Octavius Caesar).
The production ran from 20 May - 13 June 1987. Production information from Plays and Players and the World Shakespeare Bibliography; may be incomplete.
"Contact Theatre has made a name for itself with forceful, politcally aware plays, scoring notable recent successess with Brecht and Dario Fo. This production shows that Contact can also offer a convincingly traditional account of Shakespearian tragedy, combining smooth teamwork with sharp character-definition and sustaining a brisk pace - an important factor in Shakespeare's longest play. Nettie Edwards' set manages to be simple yet richly symbolic: a large classical plinth at the back of the apron stage serves both as Roman dais and as Cleopatra's Monument: a cascade of honey-coloured cloth falls across it and flows down to the front of the stage like a river of sand. Egyptian opulence, Roman bleakness, the Nile and the desert are all easily suggested as the verse, and the lighting, shift from mood to mood. Wyllie Longmore emerges as a subtle, commanding and intelligent Antony. A young Antony, too: no sign of 'white hairs' to 'reprove the brown for rashness', or of the battered veteran whom Octavius sees as an 'old ruffian'. Still, the shift from overconfident, charismatic hero to dazed and frustrated loser is made believable and moving, and Longmore lets us see the elements of wisdom emerging from defeat. He delivers his lines with a fluency that allows them to yield all their poetic rhythm without once breaking the illusion of natural speech. Clare Dow's Cleopatra undercuts the grandeur of this Antony in a way that may not be altogether intentional. A down-to-earth, combative heroine (nicely balanced by Faith Tingle's naively enthusiastic Charmian), she reveals Antony as the victim of his own illusions, but seems to lack some of the range of the part....Peter Rumney is a thin-faced and efficiently menacing Caesar, the cold logic of his political cynicism contrasting effectively with Antony's emotional impulsiveness. Although there is much doubling- and trebling-up, it has been managed so as to minimise distraction for the audience, and provides one highly effective touch, in Tyrone Huggins' doubling as the Soothsayer and as the Clown who brings the asp. Dressed for both parts in long black robes and adding a touch of mime to his weighty, enigmatic speeches, he contributes a note of disquieting ritual to a very human production." ~ Grevel Lindop, Plays and Players, August 1987