Emotions fly in epic tale of love and war

By Paul Simei-Barton

Natasha Daniel's Cleopatra is a complex, capricious character.
Natasha Daniel's Cleopatra is a complex, capricious character.

In Antony & Cleopatra the clash of civilisations is set against the intimacy of a tender love story and the epic struggle between Rome and Egypt comes to represent the conflicting impulses that exist within each of us.

Dr Vanessa Byrnes intelligently reworks the text to emphasise inner emotion over public spectacle and retains much of the poetic complexity of Shakespeare's verse.

The fast-paced staging brings clarity to the play's fickle changes in fortune and lends momentum to the frequent transitions as the action swings between Egypt and Rome.

There is some awkwardness as the production negotiates the difficult transition from the studio space where it began as a graduate student work to the magnificent Globe.

Actors attempt to include the surrounding audience by circling around the stage while delivering speeches but this tends to dissipate the drama and the more compelling moments come in points of stillness.

Reuben Bowen as Mark Antony is engaging as a political deal-maker whose natural authority provokes envy in his rival Octavius Caesar, who embodies the insecurities of a Nero in Michael Jamieson's interpretation.

Natasha Daniel's Cleopatra is a complex, capricious character switching abruptly from theatrical manipulation to tenderness though low-key staging of the court scenes undermines the regal grandeur usually associated with this role.

Brianna Jude's soothsayer provides an effective commentary on the unfolding action and the energetic ensemble work delivers some fine comedy as messengers are burdened with expressing truths that their listeners do not want to hear.

What: Antony & Cleopatra

Where: Pop-up Globe, Greys Avenue to April 9.

- NZ Herald

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