Mark Antony and Cleopatra serves as the historical sequel to Julius Caesar. After the demise of Caesar, his loyal and flamboyant general Mark Antony joined forces with Caesar’s heir and great-nephew; Octavius. Together they defeated the men who conspired against their beloved father figure, and divided the empire between themselves. The conservative Octavius (now calling himself Caesar) took Rome. Whilst Mark Antony took Gaul (France) and Egypt for himself.
This suited Mark Antony well. The boring drudgery of Roman politics never interested the gifted war general. The exotic allure of Egypt was much more fitting to his personality. Although he would not get to rule Egypt alone, as the ancient land already had a Queen; the infamous Cleopatra.
Cleopatra is a fascinating historical character. She is synonymous with beauty, despite probably being quite ugly. She is known for her god-like royalty, in spite of being ascribed numerous personality flaws. To the Romans she was an enchantress; who bewitched Mark Antony with extravagant feasts, orgy parties and unquestioned power.
The play opened up with a scene from the famous parties of Antony and Cleopatra. People dressed up as animals enjoying the pleasures of the flesh to seductive music played by the orchestra. This was contrasted by the following scene of a sober Roman bathhouse which Octavius Caesar was spending his time bending the ears of other senators rather than partying.
Josette Simon was absolutely electric as Cleopatra. She made the ridiculous characteristics of the Queen almost seem rational. Whilst Antony Byrne gave us a conflicted and weathered Mark Antony. Their stage chemistry worked well to provide a balance of humour and drama. Ben Allen also did well to portray a calculating but occasionally immature Octavius Caesar.
The designers and actors had done well to differentiate the colourful Egyptian characters and sets as opposed to their sombre Roman counterparts. The miniature ships used for the war scenes were also beautifully designed.
I applaud the cast and crew for an enjoyable and memorable night filled with tragedy and laughter.
Antony & Cleopatra is showing at the Barbican until January 20th 2018. For tickets Click here.