Shakespeare’s not-so love story Antony and Cleopatra is brought to life at the RSC in conjunction with their Rome season as it continues the story of Julius Caesar.
Struggling between his love and adoration for Cleopatra and his duties towards Ancient Rome, Antony is a character that suffers a lot of conflict in the production. After becoming a hero for Ancient Rome after vanquishing Brutus and Caissius, he feels a strong loyalty to the city and therefore decides to embark to Ancient Rome. As a lover to Cleopatra in Egypt, he leaves her behind to fulfil his duties in Rome, which leaves her furious.
Antony Byrne takes on the role of Mark Antony and does a splendid job as he captures his inner dispute well, however lacks slightly on Mark Antony’s feverish sexual desire. Opposite him, Josette Simon is superb as the feisty Cleopatra. She is a complex character that is bursting with deep insecurity, however it is conveyed through exaggerated confidence. She is demanding, outspoken and manipulative, and Simons encapsulates this through her strong characterisation and sarcastically witty tone. Completely commanding the audience with her eccentric personality, Simons presents the character with a distorted personality that switches instantly to display her neurotic nature.
Each scene of Cleopatra’s creates an entirely sensual Egyptian ambience. Her loyal group of ladies in waiting and her chief eunuch bring a volume of energy and colour to the performance. Whether it’s their comedic remarks or impudent giggles, they provide the glamorous Egyptian flavour.
Scored by popstar Laura Mvuela, her tones provide a mesmerising backdrop to both the passion and action of the performance. The music appears almost hypnotic, as the sounds reflect both the light and shade of each scene. This is reflected in the impressively regal staging that transitions seamlessly between scenes.
As one of the longer Shakespeare plays, the second act does begin to crawl along, however praise to Josette Simon whose characterisation makes the performance engaging whilst adding pace, as we are literally left on edge as we wonder what she will do next due to her unpredictable personality.
Other stand out performers include Andrew Woodhall, who plays the title role of Caesar in the RSC’s Julius Caesar, but plays Antony’s countryman Enobarbus in this production. Lucky enough to have some of the strongest dialogue in the play, Woodhall provides a commanding performance with his matter-of-fact tone.
Antony and Cleopatra is a compelling performance centred around Josette Simon’s electrically entrancing portrayal of Cleopatra which is entirely striking and exudes sexuality.
On at the RSC, tickets can be found here.