Ralph Wainer enjoys DUCT’s contemporary twist on Antony and Cleopatra.
Last night DUCT gave a very successful rendition of Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’.
The first thing that caught my eye was the elaborate set in the Assembly Rooms. Stage manager Elena Mychaleckyj did a great job in producing an Egyptian desert in front of the stage, which must have required several dozen kilograms of sand.
The lighting was then expertly done throughout, which enhanced the already-atmospheric stage. One could see that great care was taken during all the scene changes, with scenes by the sea being performed under a different tinge of colour than scenes at court. Good changes in atmospheric music were also used to accompany the various acts and I was particularly impressed by how well several different audio tracks were played simultaneously to produce the desired effect.
You could safely say that the audience was immersed in the performance, which was expertly directed by Dominic Williams.
The decision to create a slightly shorter version of the play set in a modern environment was a good one. Although most scenes were performed with very few props, the entire performance had a very mature feel to it, with emphasis placed on the language and character interactions, rather than any complicated choreography (there was however a short chant, which was well performed). The end scene where Cleopatra and Charmian committed suicide (using a REAL snake) was particularly gripping.
Producer and assistant producer Allegra Dowley and Penny Babakhani did well in helping to organize the set and costumes, which were modern in style and appropriate for each character. In particular, Cleopatra (Melanie Clarke) boasted several different well-chosen costumes. Most actors wore modern military uniforms, which gave a play a rather serious air throughout the performance.
Sandy Thin was gave a solid performance as Mark Antony, yet I could not help but feel that other supporting actors could have been equally successful in his role. His portrayal of the complicated Antony was less rugged than is expected, and certainly somewhat softer than I remember. Nonetheless, it was still a well-acted offering of a complex part.
I was also unsure of the slight accents employed by the leading duo, which sometimes was too noticeable during some of their longer verses. The more energetic lines of Cleopatra were skilfully acted by Clarke, yet the voice needed a little more depth, which in contrast was amply provided by all of the supporting actors.
Indeed the supporting performers were truly excellent in this show. Charmian, played by Ellie Bowness, was excellently portrayed and could not have been better cast. Similarly Harvey Comerford made a very commanding and well-balanced Octavius Caesar, a role which I thought was prone to over-acting, yet was proficiently performed. Shaheen Ahmed-Chowdhury gave a good performance as both Alexas and Proculeius, and had a particularly clear and distinguishable voice.
Overall, it felt like an exception piece of professional drama that is well worth a watch, especially given the contemporary twist that DUCT has chosen to pursue.
Photo: Allegra Dowley