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ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA at the Swan (RSC)

November 17, 2013

Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s joint American and British production of Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA at the RSC Swan Theatre left me open mouthed. Not since I suffered the movement of Imperial Rome to Iraq for thesetting of “Julius Caesar at the Swan back in 2005/2006 have I experienced such a degradation of the plot. Here we suffer degradation of the plot as Imperial Roman Egypt is relocated to Napoleonic Revolutionary Haitti creating much less of a play.

My discomfort was amplified because I was taking my visiting friend Cynthia Ruffin, an established actress and writer from Hollywood to the RSC in Stratford for her first visit. Cynthia agreed that the setting had created nothing but confusion and at the end of Act One summed up the central problem with this play that Joaquina Kalukango’s Cleopatra was a “Princess” rather than a “Queen”. I am sorry to say that Jonathan Cake‘s Antony was no better. He had this awful smug smirk on his face throughout his speeches which completely undermined his performance.

I liked Tom Piper‘s design. Chukwudi Iwuji’s Enobarbus and Samuel Collings’ Octavius Caeser were both very good performances. However I am sorry to say that Tarell Alivin McCraney’s ill conceived setting, poor casting and sloppy direction really did mean that this production was just plain awful.

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