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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
at the Liverpool Playhouse

HEDONISM AND HANGING LANTERNS
By MICHAEL COVENEY

  Kim Cattrall and Jeffery Kissoon/ Ph: Stephen Vaughan

Kim Cattrall will always be best known as Samantha Jones, the man-hunting minx of Manhattan in Sex and the City, but at least she will not be soon forgotten as Cleopatra, whom she played for a few weeks in her home town, Liverpool, in a snappy, intelligent production by one of the best Royal Shakespeare Company Cleopatras of modern times, Janet Suzman.

Cattrall saw that Suzman performance in the mid-1970s, shortly after graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (she had  emigrated to Toronto with her family as a young child, and worked her way back to LAMDA via New York). And when she appeared with Suzman in a West End revival of Whose Life Is It Anyway? five years ago, the fire was lit.

She warmed up earlier this year with a revelatory, irresistible Amanda in Richard Eyre’s West End revival of Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Her Cleo, paired with a blustery, bleary-eyed, half-sozzled Antony from Jeffery Kissoon, once an imposing warlord in Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata, is kittenish, smart, slinky, decisive and dangerous.

For someone with next to no experience of speaking Shakespeare, this was not far short of miraculous. She spoke the verse extremely well and surprised everyone, in fact, by handling the glorious fifth act – in which she outwits her captors, prepares for death, and glories in her poetic, transcendental vision of Antony – even better than the skittish early scenes.

Kissoon’s Antony is first seen sprawling drunkenly at her feet. The passion of their relationship is redoubled in the knowledge that it’s fading fast. Bare-footed and brunette-bobbed, Cattrall, in soft silks and eager movement, runs a haven of hedonism and hanging lanterns for her damaged chieftan, aided by Charmian and Iris (played with contrasting physiques and delightful subtlety by Aïcha Kossoko and Gracy Goldman) and her pliable eunuch, Mardian (Offue Okegbe).

This is Antony’s bolthole from the stern reality of Rome and realpolitik, as represented in the brick surround of Peter McKintosh’s neat design, where the soldiers wear purple sashes and chestfuls of medals, and the boyish, strikingly quick-witted Octavius Caesar of Martin Hutson sets the agenda. But Cattrall plays the head of state, too, dealing with her papers in a pair of natty specs and ruling the roost with a stern jutting jaw when resolution looks like failing.

There are no plans for a London transfer of the production, so the event will remain part of Liverpool folklore. Suzman cannily hired not only a top-class designer, but also the eminent Paul Pyant to do the atmospheric lighting and composer Corin Buckeridge to supply moody, appropriate music and sound effects. She also attracted RSC veteran Ian Hogg to play Enobarbus, delivering his famous speech about sighting Cleo on the barge through a wondrous veil of remembrance, and several talented young actors to play various soldiers, doubling to good, imaginative effect.

Mark Sutherland, for instance, played both Caesar’s sister, Octavia, the functional honey trap for political purposes as Antony dithers (he marries her), and Eros, Antony’s valet and example of heroic suicide. Similarly, Oliver Hoare was both a callow, reckless Pompey and the unfortunate Thidias, made a whipping boy for bearing bad news. Cattrall was seen to added advantage in such clever, resourceful circumstances. 

 


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