Throwback - Antony and Cleopatra at the Swan Theatre, RSC

Antony and Cleopatra is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragic love stories, it charts the relationship of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra, two lovers who find their duty as leaders and their status as lovers cashing with the most tragic of outcomes. The RSC’s production was both visually stunning enough and stripped down enough to be enjoyable for both avid theatre goers and more casual theatre fans.

The play was staged in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s smaller Swan Theatre, which made for a very intimate performing space and audience seating area too. As an audience member I felt immersed in the action, with the actors addressing the audience directly throughout the piece and often using the aisle to enter and exit the scenes. This helped to enhance the intimacy of the piece, and also gave the impression of secrecy, as it felt like the audience were almost eavesdropping on the scene before them. This was particularly effective given the storyline of a forbidden romance between the eponymous protagonists.

With regards to casting, I was particularly impressed with the way which the American and English casts worked together. It both reflected the cultural divides of the characters within the play, and allowed for a different acting style. American actors tended to address the audience more colloquially and acted more freely. Notably, Cleopatra (Joaquina Kalukango) was entertaining as the barefoot, heroine, lolling on her rather more uptight lover Antony, and rushing around, almost childlike in her portrayal. Another notable actor was Chukwudi Iwuji, playing the hugely entertaining an empathetic Enobarbus. His performance was hugely memorable, and he was hugely engaging, in fact, to some extent the energy flagged when he was not on stage. His role in the memorable final scene, and probably the standout scene to the play, was that of a death mask sporting omnipresence, dancing an enchanting African dance, accompanied by drums, played on stage in a Brechtian style. This final scene left a wonderfully surreal final image in the heads of audience members, and certainly left me feeling impressed.

The play was a hugely enjoyable two and a half hours and definitely entertaining enough for me to consider buying another ticket and recommend the play to others, and although it has since closed in Stratford, it is open in Miami at the moment and is moving to New York in two weeks. Those who can should not hesitate to see this wonderfully exotic RSC production.