By Ayasha Nordiawan
Walkabout Productions’ immersive production of Antony & Cleopatra was eclectic, unique, and certainly unforgettable. As a regular theatre-goer, it is often easy for me to forget how much we are able to go above and beyond in this art, and the cast and crew of Antony & Cleopatra was the perfect reminder of this.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by security officers, which immediately transports you into Egypt or Rome, depending on the side you choose to watch. Security officers, played by Elizabeth Sykes and Hugo Negròn-Jennings, were absolutely incredible in building up the atmosphere and staying in character throughout the 30 minutes people were mingling outside of the set. It was apparent the amount of dedication and thought that has gone into not only the production of it but also how to create the “immersive” experience for the audience.
Staged in Durham Student Union’s Fonteyn Ballroom, the multi-room set environment, designed and led by Steph Roarty was impressive in creating the immersive experience the directors were aiming for. Trapped in a square in an Egyptian dining room, the audience mingles with Cleopatra and her companions. The moving set was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in Durham, and the directors did an incredible job choreographing and blocking their cast to make the experience of the set change as epic as possible. Although at times, when one side is more rowdy and the other more quiet, the multi-room setting did get slightly distracting, however this was solved when the two sets merged together.
Directed by Harry Threapleton, the quick switch between the dreamy, lovestruck atmosphere in Egypt and the high tension following as the plot progresses was skilful and really quite incredible, and the immersive experience intensified the effectiveness of the scenes.
The cast, crowned by Alexa Thanni playing Cleopatra, was stunning and their dedication to the show was apparent. Francesca Singh, playing Enobarbus was an absolute delight to watch, their strong stride created an incredible presence on stage. Olivia Clouting, playing Octavius Caesar and Ed Clark, playing Mark Antony were also commendable in their equally strong yet contrasting energy, making the show entertaining to watch.
The contrast between the cast members in Rome, directed by Max Shanagher, all dressed in serious black to Egypt’s colourful, flowy dresses, was really effective in its effort at worldbuilding and creating distance between the two. Shout out must also be given to Emily Waller for the costume design – some of the intricate details have really made all the difference for the characters. The technical aspects of the show, led by Production Managers Theo Nellis and Henry Flack, were nothing less than impressive, with lighting playing one of the most important roles in the immersive nature of the play.
Overall, Walkabout Production’s Antony & Cleopatra is an incredible proof of what student theatre is capable of achieving. The vision, passion, as well as skill that went into the production is a huge achievement that everyone involved should be proud of.
Image: Walkabout Production