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Saturday, 6 November 2010

Theatre - Anthony & Cleopatra - Liverpool Playhouse

Star rating – 8/10

Anthony and Cleopatra, not perhaps equal to Romeo and Juliet as Shakespeare’s most famous star crossed lovers, are nevertheless up there with them in terms of passion, longing, tension and tragedy. This brilliant production in Liverpool is directed by Janet Suzman, herself famous for her own lauded Cleopatra in the 1970’s. This time it is Kim Cattrall in the role of the beautiful Empress of Egypt, returning to her home city to play this demanding part. And it has to be said that she does so very impressively indeed.

This is one of the more accessible of the bard’s tragedies, with a plot line of plotting, politics, wars and love, which veers between Rome and Egypt, that is relatively easy to follow. The set at the Liverpool Playhouse is plain and simple but very effective, with a two tiered effect created by a gantry which hosts some of the action over the main stage. It is long, at well over three hours, but the fast paced story and engrossing plot makes it feel much less so.

Some of the casting is a little odd. Jeffery Kissoon as Anthony for me lacked the strong, handsome qualities that I expect from this part, and I didn’t really sense much sexual chemistry between him and Cattrall. And the decision to cast a man in the role of Octavia, the woman who Anthony marries to attempt to make piece with Octavius Caesar was odd, did not work for me either.

But the performance belongs to Kim Cattrall. She is dramatic, tragic, regal, beautiful and witty. The scenes between herself and the messenger are particularly good, when first she threatens his life for bringing her news of the marriage of her beloved Anthony and Octavia. And then she adores him for giving her some details of Octavia’s imperfections – small, low voiced, not beautiful – no match for the enticing Empress. And the final death scenes are moving and impressive, as they ought to be.

So overall a great performance, despite its imperfections, and Cattrall’s stunning Cleopatra has certainly brought sex back to her home city. Bravo.

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