This production leaves me in a quandary. Is it an intellectual representation of themes, or is it emotionally engaging theatre? Either intention is possible, but neither is successfully achieved.
Praise first, however. Ian Croker stood out as Enobarbus. In the difficult acoustics of the Arts Centre, his enunciation was clear and the character's emotions and understanding of the political and warfare manoeuvrings were plain to see. He held the play together. It was a mistake to ask him to also play the Clown who brings the asp to Cleopatra, but Croker managed even that transition very well.
Jager's Cleopatra became much more successful after
But otherwise things fell short of good intentions. Mark Antony (Douglas Amarfio) was never "the crown o' the earth" as Cleopatra calls him, nor ever "my brother, my competitor in top of all design, my mate in empire" at whose death Octavius (Duncan Ley) weeps. Amarfio's vocal skills and presence on stage were just not up to the mark. Ley, too, despite strong performances in other plays, was constrained by a business suited Octavius - even at the height of battle - and could give no more than occasional flashes of the consummate strategist that he needed to be to defeat Pompey, then Antony and Cleopatra, and go on to become Augustus Caesar.
Costume design seemed to try to be thematic, but the mix of beautiful and erotic ancient Egyptian women among modern suits and army gear made Cleopatra look too much like a good time girl on the make in Bangkok instead of the powerful Queen of Egypt which de Jager did her best to play. If the Romans had also been dressed in their historically correct costumes, the setting would have been immediately established in a consistent style, allowing the play to tell its own story without problems like soldiers with modern guns committing suicide by falling on their swords. Otherwise go all modern, or timeless, but be consistent.
The result? "Take to you no hard thoughts" but don't expect too much.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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