Career > > 1998 > Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra

October 20, 1998 - December 03, 1998 | The Royal National Theatre
Directed by: Sean Mathias | Literature: William Shakespeare | Set Design: Tim Hatley
Antony (Alan Rickman), right hand man to the late Julius Caesar, has been spending such an inordinate amount of time in Egypt with Cleopatra (Helen Mirren) that his jealous wife has begun to wage war on Caesar's heir Octavius Caesar (Jonathan Hyde) expressly to bring him back. When she suddenly dies, Antony, realizing his career and possibly his life hang in the balance, leaves to meet with Octavius Caeser. In order to remain his good graces, Antony agrees to marry the emporer's sister Octavia (Katia Caballero), despite his passion for Cleopatra.
Cast: Alan Rickman (Antony), Helen Mirren (Cleopatra), Finbar Lynch (Enobarus), Samuel West (Octavius Caesar), Raad Rawi (Lepidus), Katia Caballero (Octavia), Danny Sapani (Sextus Pompeius), Trevyn McDowell (Charmian), Nina Sosanya (Iras), David Phelan (Agrippa), Adam Magnani (Canidius, Menecrates), Giles Tomlin (Deemetrius, Dercetus), Hosh Ibrahim (Diomedes), Henry Ian Cusick (Dolabella), Finbar Lynch (Domitius Enobarbus), In-Sook Chappell (Egyptian), Leo Wringer (Eros), Riz Abbasi (Gallus, Cleopatra’s Messenger), Janet Spencer-Turner (Lady), Raad Rawi (Lepidus), Gareth Harris (Maecenas), Brett Fancy (Menas), Katia Caballero (Octavia), Sean Francis (Philo, Proculeius), Mark Bonnar (Scarus), Jiro Sakamoto (Seleucus, Egyptian), Danny Sapani (Sextus Pompeius), Adam Croasdell (Soldier), Razaaq Adoti (Taurus, Alexas), Edward Laurie (Thidias)

Production Photos

Production Notes

For the third time in her career, Helen Mirren tackled Cleopatra on stage. The role launched her professional theatre career in 1965 and set a high point with an Olivier Award nominated rendition in 1982 opposite Michael Gambon. So, when the National Theatre paired Mirren with Alan Rickman, the entire run is already sold out. If you want to put bums on seats hire Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman to play two of the greatest roles in Shakespeare. Unfortunately, as the Telegraph wrote in its review, “Mirren’s sensual Cleopatra is let down by a lacklustre lover.”

The Telegraph continues: “A production can survive a rotten design. What it can’t always survive is a performance from Alan Rickman. He was the worst Hamlet in recent memory and now he gives us a thoroughly unengaging and at times downright lazy Antony. From the start, he seems far too weary for anything approaching passion. Apparently suffering from the hangover from hell, his Antony delivers his speeches in a languid monotonous drawl that often does fatal damage to both the rhythm and the sense of the verse. He approaches Mirren’s Cleopatra with all the enthusiasm of a man contemplating his tax return, and you get the impression that almost every chap in the audience must be far more taken with her than the semi-detached actor actually appearing with her on stage. Only when Antony approaches the heart of loss and despair at the end does the performance acquire anything approaching emotional intensity. In these circumstances, Mirren’s performance is heroic. With her spangly dress and braided hair, she initially looks more like the faintly raddled queen of a suburban disco than of old Nile, but she impressively captures Cleopatra’s volatility of mood, and though her variety may be less than infinite, she is funny, touching, sexy, capricious and, at moments, achingly vulnerable.”

The play was universally panned, mostly for Rickman’s performance. The Wall Street Journal wrote, that “the worst offender is Mr. Rickman, who commits every sin against good diction short of mumbling into his shaggy beard.” Variety, at least, praised Mirren’s screen presence. “When Mirren takes the stage, few among the company can do more than flicker alongside those rows of candles, whether Cleopatra is demanding the gossip on Octavia or facing the fatal asp with a deliciously taunting, “Will it eat me?”



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