Ola is a big fan of Patrick Stewart, and we’ve been following his stage appearances as best we can. Having missed the RSC production of Antony and Cleopatra in Stratford, we jumped on the opportunity to go and see it in London.
Antony and Cleopatra is one of my favourite plays, largely because I know it so well having studied it for English Literature A-level. The play has so many layers and such wonderful verse and imagery:
The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love−sick with them;
It has everything. Moments of comedy, drama, and tragedy. Contrasts between watery, airy Egypt, and the solid land foundations of Rome; between age and youth; military and political strength; lovesickness and reason. It’s just a remarkable piece of work.
His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm
Crested the world: his voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder.
The RSC production was quite superb, with brilliant performances and staging. The principals (Patrick Stewart as Antony, Harriet Walter as Cleopata, John Hopkins as Octavius Caesar and Ken Bones as Enobarbus) were outstanding, although my own preference would have been for Octavius to be a little less nervy – Hopkins played him physically weak, bristling with rage, and jumpy, but I’d always read the character as a much more controlled individual. To be fair, the whole cast was excellent. The emotional response elicited by the performance was quite marked. Much of the cast was from the same company that performed in The Tempest at Stratford – there they ran performances of the two plays interleaved, whereas in London A&C is about to close, to be followed by The Tempest.
We’d never been to the Novello Theatre before. We were sat pretty much in the centre of the stalls, which gave us a great view. There was an interesting effect from the mirrored panelled walls in the stalls, too, giving the impression of more space.
One other point about the evening was that I’m now fairly convinced that the violinist Nigel Kennedy is stalking us. We saw him at Krakow airport one time (OK, I think he does live there, to be fair), and last night he was sitting 2 rows behind us. I’m going to look over my shoulder more often.