Against Sue Blane's monumental brick-and-monolith set and a series of epic skies, augmented by Ilona Sekacz's majestic score (she also does The School Of Night proud – see separate review), and opposite Clare Higgins' mercurial, often hysterical Cleopatra, Richard Johnson rumbles, growls and swaggers like a 1970s hellraiser of the Burton/Harris/Marvin school, sometimes to the point of vocal unintelligibility. This Antony is plainly past it, conscious that he is a shadow of the man who carved up the known world with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus; but three and a half hours of grizzled past glories are a bit much. It is Higgins who commands the attention, giving full rein to romantic fury. (Incidentally, forgive me for harping on about age, but wasn't Octavius a teenager at the time, and not at all like the implausible, orotund John Nettles?) Director John Caird overdoes the romance and goes for the spectacle (this is visually ravishing) in the hope that the drama will look after itself. It doesn't.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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