After watching the NT Live performance of Antony and Cleopatra I am happy to report that it was absolutely fantastic! I had booked the tickets a while back, before Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes had won Evening Standard acting awards for their roles as the titular characters. I had high hopes for this production and was pleased to see that they were met in some places and even exceeded in others.
Simon Godwin was the Director of the play and should be applauded for some brave choices and decisions with regard to some of the action sequences and overall physicality of the production. He also brought forth some strong performances from the actors.
Ralph Fiennes portrayed the older, worn war hero Mark Antony very well. Fiennes portrayed him as a man who was once seen as a brave and gallant war Commander laid to ruin through his love for Queen Cleopatra. Sophie Okonedo was too excellent, she portrayed a slightly hysterical, emotional Cleopatra, which highlighted the characters manipulative side. The passion between the two leads was afire and burned throughout.
All of the secondary characters were strongly portrayed. As well as the titular roles, particular mention should be given to Tim McMullan playing a very louche Enobarbus. Caesar was also played with conviction by Tunji Kasim who portrayed him as a young upstart in the vein of an ambitious Apprentice type character. Eros the faithful servant was played with emotional gravitas and excellent physicality by Fisayo Akinade, (he did very well not to injure himself in the water feature in one scene!). Lepidus portrayed by Nicholas Le Prevost was comic and intriguing; his scenes in the Submarine were excellent. Cleopatra’s servants, Charmian, (Gloria Obianyo) Iras (Georgia Landers) and the mysterious Soothsayer (Hiba Elchikhe) were also excellent, strong characters. Also, mention must be given to the real snake used in the production. It was a brave choice to use a real animal who we were assured at the start, was not harmed at all!
The set designs by Hildegard Bechtler were extremely impressive. Simple in architectural form with a revolving stage which was put to good use. In just a few moments, Cleopatra’s opulent Egyptian palace with stunning water feature became the stark, marble hued, corporate, boardroom environment of Rome. The submarine set was also simple but very effective, I liked the trapdoors that became doors of the submarine when opened. The stone archways used in the war scene were also simple but very atmospheric, really conveying a war strewn desert setting.
The costumes were incredible, especially Cleopatra’s dresses, some of which were which were modelled on Beyonce’s! They were rich, opulent and decadent even in colour and texture which contrasted particularly with the contemporary desert army combat clothes of Antony and his warriors in Act Two. The costumes of the Roman characters were smart and either military inspired dress uniform or business suits. Octavia’s clothes and hairstyle appeared to have been inspired by those of Kate Middleton.
Overall, this was an excellent production. I am so pleased that it was chosen to be broadcast as part of NT Live to enable those of us far from London to see it. If however, you are near to London during the play’s run then I wholly recommend that you see it as you won’t be disappointed!
Roll on 2019, I’ve got my eye on a forthcoming NT Live production of All My Sons in May…