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Fresh, Illuminating Antony and Cleopatra

Natal Witness

 

Having scored a bull’s eye with King Lear, the Take-Away Shakespeare Co have now turned their attention to Anthony and Cleopatra. It’s a play ideally suited to a clever cut-and-paste job as it already consists of numerous short scenes, never really calming down until Act V when everyone converges on Egypt and there’s the big build-up to the asp.

 

Adaptor and director James Whyle has whittled away at the text to good effect allowing the action to bounce easily back and forth between Italy and Egypt while still retaining much of the poetry. And whereas Shakespeare’s original calls for a cast nearing 50, Whyle has managed with nine – and one of those a musician who double briefly as on of the Bard’s ubiquitous messengers.

 

Though played in modern dress and with a painted South African backdrop, this should not be read as an attempt to modernise the play of contextualise it in a specific time and place, but as the bold assertion by director and cast of their right to stage an English play in a country where English is spoken. Shakespeare belongs to everybody. Setting and costume are details.

 

Slimming down the play also helps to iron out some of its faults by simply letting it get a move on…  Clever and pertinent, such apparent liberties work well, and this production is filled with moments of theatrical facility, as when Annie Robinson in one brief turn moves from being the patrician Octavia, sister of Caesar, to the eagerly subservient, Iris, attendant to Cleopatra.

 

There’s more than mere cleverness here, more than simple cut and paste. Simple and illuminating, James Whyle’s production demonstrates once again Shakespeare’s infinite variety.

 

Bard for the ‘90s

Garalt MacLiam

Star Tonight

27 July 1999

 

At once flawed and magnificent, James Whyle’s condensed version of Antony and Cleopatra stirs the imagination and creates a sense of awe as the larger than life story unfolds....

 

Sarah Roberts’ marvellously evocative setting and costumes are modern day and from the play’s outset we are taken into harsh realities of power play politics where morals have no role and mendacity is an art to be admired; where the appetites for love and lust are indulged to the hilt. Striped of royal pomp and circumstance, and without frippery, the production personifies the 90s...

 

Cilliers’s Cleopatra is the quintessential example of sensual womanhood who devours life with the electric energy one might expect in a tigress. As the play progresses there is an amalgam of tiger and hyena when she seemingly becomes hoist by her own petard... it is an awe-inspiring performance....

 

Taylor is a dynamic presence on stage and his Antony ranges from a general marshalling his troops through rogue lover and on to corporate wheeler-dealer par excellence. His understanding of his character’s motivations and his willingness, indeed, eagerness to portray his the baser side of Antony’s nature both attracts and repels. There is, too, an astonishing moment near the play’s climax where the actor; overcome by the train of events, visibly ages; where moving from the prime of his manhood, in a split instant, he adopts the persona of frail age. I gasped at the transformation.

 

James Whyle’s direction imbues a sense of high drama and the whole is upbeat, up to date theatre which should hold its audience entranced.

 

 

 

‘Antony & Cleopatra’ opwindend vir ons tyd

Paul Boekkooi

Beeld Plus

27 July 1999

 

... Antony se lewe is die van ‘n heerser wat sy grenslose militere mag en sy stabiliteit in beroeps en huishoudelike kring op die sprl plaas om ‘n testosteroongedrewe passie vir Cleopatra, konigin van Egipte, te begin. Cleopatra ken al die truuks in die boek van manipulasie tussen die geslagte en wag haar prooi telkens met haar kragtig gerigte naels, wat blitsvinnigkan toeslaan, in.

 

Die spannende, dinamiese, seksuele magspel tussen twee wereldfigure sou hom op enige plek ter wereld, ook in 1999, kon afspeel.


Sean Talylor se Antony broei aaneen, met ’n soort inghoue energie wat hy op die regte oomblikke met vulkaniese krag loslaat. Daar’s geen spoor van goeie bedoelings in sy voorstelling van die vegter-minnaar nie, maar sjarme by steeds sy sleutel tot die bereiking van elke oorwinning.

 

In sy omgang met die Shakespeareaanse aura is Taylor ‘n voorbeeld vir elkeen in die geselskap.

 

As Cleopatra is Jana Cilliers ‘n aartsfeeks wat ‘n wyd uiteenlopende spektrum van akteursgereedskap inspan om die koningin se vurigheid, frustrasie, magsug, gespannendheid en ongeduld in ‘n verskeidendheid van plofbare tantrums oor te dra. Maar nooit is’n mens van verhoogtegniek per se bewus nie, terwyl die fyn modulasie van haar stem - van die vinnige staccato-uitbarsings tot by die sagste mezza voce uitings - jou aan haar lippe laat hang...

 

As gevolg van die verkorte teks en die feit dat die ander akteurs rolle moet doebleer, is momentele verwarring moontlik. Die kyker moet veral kophou omdat die akteures nie die tyd het om van kostuums to verander nie, moor hoogtens iets soos ‘n ekstra donkerbril of  ‘n serp dra.

 

Tog was daar sterk oomblikke by die akteurs, soos Zane Meas se Thidias, wat so geslepe soos ‘n slang is wanneer hy gestuur word om Cleopatra tot ander insigte te bring.

 

Antony Coleman se Caesar Octavius kom nie baie keiserlik oor nie - die regisseur se interpretasie? Maar in die paar sinies-manipulerende oomblikke wat hom gegun word, is hy brijant.

 

Gerrit Schoonhoven kontrasteer Lepidus en Mardian met baie vaardigheid. Veral in laasgenoemde voorstelling gryp hy elke kans aan om satiries-komiese verligting aan die geheel te verleen...

 

Greg Melvill-Smith se dikwels dramatiese onderbeklemtoning van Enobarbus/Eros is treffend, terwyl Annie Robinson as Iris/Octavia en Megan Wilson se Charmaine/Menas dikwels verfyning verleen aan hul rolle, wat hier so maklik sou kon wegraak in die digtheid wat die ensemble as geheel kenmerk.

 

James Whyle se regie is energiek en op die moderne, jonger Shakespeare-gehoor gemik. Daar is ‘n onnoembare aantal fyn detail wat ‘n mense seker eers tydens ‘n tweede besoek sal waarneem.

 

Hierdie Antony & Cleopatra is ‘n produksie wat opwinding in die hart bring. Voorwaar ‘n Shakespeare vir ons tyd.

 

 

 

I loved the Man, and do honour his Memory, on this side Idolatry.

Ben Johnson.

 

By overestimating Shakespeare’s importance and uniqueness, Shakepearian critics insult the truth.  

Gary Taylor - Reinventing Shakespeare.

 

Hast thou the worm of Nilus there that kills and pains not?

William Shakespeare.

 

He was receiv'd into the Company... in a very mean rank; But his admirable Wit, and the natural Turn of it to the Stage, soon distinguished him, if not as an extraodinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer.

Nicholas Rowe -  Some Acount of the Life & Co. of Mr. William Shakespear

 

 I wish you all the joy of the worm.

William Shakespeare

 

In Shakespeare everything is exaggerated...  one sees that he does not believe in what he says.

Leo Tolstoy.

 

His biting is immortal. Those that do die of it do seldom or never recover.

William Shakespeare.

 

As an actor he needed to become only two or three characters per play; as a playwright he had to perform all the parts in his head...

Gary Taylor.

 

A very honest woman. But something given to lie, as woman should do... How she died of the biting of it! What pain she felt!

William Shakespeare.

 

“I remember the Players have oftern mention'd it as an honour to Shakespear, that in Writing... he never blotted out a Line. My Answer hath been, Would he had blotted 'a thousand...

Ben Johnson

 

She makes a very good report of the worm.

William Shakespeare.

 

I make all my boyfriends mad. I’m a mafia in bed.

Brenda Fassie

 

The worm... is an odd worm.

William Shakespeare.

 

 

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