August 24th promised my first viewing of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Stratford Festival. For me, this play was very interesting; because I had never studied it, but had read it, I knew what to expect but not in my usual academic way, however it’s always infinitely better to see a play than to simply read it. It was kind of nice, because I got to relax and go on the journey with the characters and immerse myself in the story.
This play is beautiful. It was beautiful to watch and beautiful to listen to. The way that Shakespeare wrote this play was absolutely beautiful; especially some of Enobarbus’ and Antony’s speeches are like music to the ears. However, this is one of those Shakespearean plays where if you miss a line, you miss a lot! While you can keep up, there are so many nuances in the beautiful poetry that it is easy to become slightly lost in what is happening, especially when the characters begin to turn on one another and it’s like you’ve missed the one word that’s seemed to set them off!
The set had such beautiful simplicity, and I just loved the way they were able to seamlessly show the difference between Egypt and Rome. (However it did make me think, in Shakespeare’s day, at the Globe, where there was little to no set at all, how on Earth did those people keep up? Not because I think they weren’t capable of it, but because the show itself flips between locations so frequently that even I got confused a few times!) The costumes were stunning, especially the ones for the Egyptian women. While they were a little risqué, they were gold and luscious and fitting for the queen of Egypt. And the togas and armour for the men were fabulous!
I felt that the three main leads, Geraint Wynn Davies as Antony, Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra and Tom McCamus as Enobarbus, did a fabulous job. And they were in very good company. Ben Carlson was a fabulous Octavious Caesar and there was a host of other fantastic characters who made the play so enjoyable. They truly brought these legendary historical figures to life and made them feel so real. They made this very political and very complicated play into what felt like real life. I give it a huge BRAVO all around!
The only odd thing about this show is that I felt like I didn’t really relate to anyone, or feel bad for anyone. Shakespeare shows the flaws of all of these great historical people so that by the end, while you’re sad that Antony and Cleopatra die, you also know that it’s history, so it’s not like the ending is really a surprise. You’re sad because it seems preventable, like Romeo and Juliet, where a little communication is all that’s needed to make things right again. And yet you’re certainly not as sad as when those young lovers take their own lives. I think I pitied Enobarbus the worst, because he was always just trying to do the right thing by Antony, and made the wrong decisions along the way, and yet even he was shown to be somewhat scandalous. So it was less emotional than some of the other plays, it was still an interesting experience.
There are only three performances left to see this great Shakespearean play! Make sure you get to see it!