Cleopatra and Antony (1989): Actors Touring Company
PrCleopatra and Antony (1989)
This production was played with four actors. It was premiered at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon and performed at the Brewhouse, Taunton before touring between February and June 1989.
Web archive of the production: http://www.atctheatre.com/productions/cleopatra
Pauline Black has expressed in an interview that in becoming an actress, one of the things she wanted to accomplish was to become the first black Cleopatra on stage: http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=6369. If not the first, this production certainly made Black one of the earliest black Cleopatras.
"It's not a misprint, I'm afraid; the production...really is called Cleopatra and Antony....Almost all the Roman scenes have been cut, robbing the play of its political complexity and contrasting dramatic worlds at a stroke. Pompey has been entirely eliminated, and the number of actors has been reduced to four. Yes four....Having pared the play to the bone, with the avowed intention of making Cleopatra the focus of the action (it had never previously occurred to me that hers was a mere supporting role), director Malcolm Edwards and his miniscule company evidently found themselves a little short of dialogue. Their 'adaptation' therefore incorporates chunks of Dryden's Antony and Cleopatra play, the prim and plodding All For Love, extracts from Plutarch's Life of Marcus Antonius, which was Shakespeare's principal source, and, apparently, material from long forgotten plays by Samuel Daniel (1594) and Sir Charles Sedley (1677)....This is an evening of hilarious gimcrack gimmickry. In the opening scene, Cleopatra and her attendants are dressed like an advert for Fry's Turkish Delight, but soon change into Eighties designer frocks. Antony wears a three-piece suit and retains the immaculately pressed trousers, even when strapped into his armour. The gaudy set, all oriental carpets, heavy drapes and scatter cushions, is gradually demolished during the play's progress, to reveal a bleak grey wall...and a battered metal cupboard from which smoke emerges during the battle scenes. With her strikingly exotic appearance, Pauline Black certainly looks the part of Cleopatra, but she has a tendency to strident actressy mannerisms, and the entrancing ambiguity of the character and the beauty of the verse are both diminished by her performance. She is, however, a great deal more successful than Patrick Wilde's wet lettuce of an Antony." ~ Charles Spencer, "Infinite variety show", Daily Telegraph, 19 May 1989
"The Actors Touring Company has mounted fine productions in its 10-year history; but this enterprise is a mishap - even if some of the verse is spoken with intelligence and colour, which in these drab days merits comment. The carpets on the stage are nice too....Susan Henry's trim, tight Octavia and Pauline Black's loftily exotic Cleo make the most of it. Patrick Wilde is gravely miscast as Antony." ~ Jeremy Kingston, "More is less", Times, 20 May 1989