Words to avoid here: "avuncular"; "kittenish"; "museum-piece" – although, on the last score, Matthew Francis's production seems at times to be a brilliant pastiche of a pseudo-Egyptian rep play. Both set and music are designer-Pharaonic (the Pharos lighthouse represented by a Tardis-like booth, the score alternately sonorous and exotically twiddly); Amanda Root's Cleopatra matures from Anna Scher kid in the first act to '70s disco diva by the fourth; a boatman steals the scene by bobbing mutely up and down in the pit. All Shavian rumination upon imperialism or the nature of power remains as dormant as his Caesar's libido – all we see is cosy satire upon bourgeois English mores incarnate in Caesar's secretary Britannus (complete with spats and bowler). Shaw's Caesar is an abstraction rather than a character, but the lower profile given to this burden steers the production mercifully away from tub-thumping: Alec McCowen succeeds in being a paragon but not a prig. What Francis chooses to do, he does deftly and entertainingly; it's not a revelatory Shaw revival, but it has both substance and lightness enough. You could do a lot worse.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
Return to index of reviews for the year 1992
Return to master reviews index
Return to main theatre page
Return to Shutters homepage