The RSC Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican tonight was probably in the bottom 5 of Shakespeare performances in my life, &I’m counting all the amdram, Fringe shit, etc. The direction was so bizarre I don’t want to say that Simon was unequal to the role, but she was doing a weird Eartha Kitt impression the entire time, like that was her Character.
They played it as a weird farce, like Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings, which dramatically shifted the stakes, but simultaneously wanted to keep the gravitas of the important moments. The farce thing isn’t bad as like a thought experiment, but as a whole staging?? Antony’s death was supposed to be hilarious in this. It didn’t work (I’d have more sympathy if the comedy had ever *worked*), but that was what we were doing. Over Anthony’s dead body Cleopatra makes a sad hand gesture that resembles wanking his corpse off—is it supposed to? WHY? At one point when they were kissing ages a kid was like gross!! and all the bougie attendees were SO PISSED but tbh /you trained audience expectations for a farce/. Also if u freak out at audience reactions early modern theatre is not the fuck 4 u go watch netflix alone again.
The language, which I’m typically really down with, was super difficult to follow here. The music started comically atrocious, but then segued into a good initial bit! I was like, ‘maybe it’s okay!!’ but then they played like a 1950s movie ROMANS!! leitmotif everytime they showed up and I was like are you the fuck serious. The set was so fucking expensive but terrible. Lots of LEVELS. Guess something in the production had to have some. The Barbican is always an awful venue too, I mentally dock 5 points for shit being there, either hall.
Cleo does an affected baby voice to mock someone like 3 times, it becomes some kind of weird Thing she does. You could play her as WAY more rational, idk. She also kept interrupting people with relevant info, I felt it as a bit of an ‘aha women amIrite??’ The focus fell primarily on the Romans&only minimally on Cleopatra, &because she was always erratic she came off shit. Anthony wasn’t compelling really, sort of a weird Russel Crow as played by Mark Gatiss thing. Cleopatra’s preparing for death was good but too little too late.
We were supposed to like Feel Something re the slave dying for Antony but Antony manhandled the shit out of him&got violent 5 seconds before, soooo? For no reason the slave death scene was super homoerotic, though we’d had 0 of that before. I AM ALL FOR HOMOEROTIC SHAKESPEARE HELLO HAVE YOU MET ME but u need an arc&shit, all the characterisation&blocking felt impressionistic&disconnected, I was like ‘bitch did you DEVISE THIS?’
Someone told them the Globe went bawdy so they tried that but it ended up at just like, weird humping all the time. Octavian is punchable as ever, but also they play his sadness over Anthony as super earnest rather than a political posture?
SERIOUSLY wtf is this a review OF??
I started to wonder whether based off the 1 ‘eh’ Globe staging&this it’s actually a truly awful play about awful fucking morons no one could care about with a handful of good lines. Why the fuck are these people in love?? They just come off as like—’in lust bc they are in lust; which is no goddamn answer. Katy’s like ‘well they both like a good time’. Ok sure, but is that the stuff epic passions are built on?
Cleo’s like oh the cool things about Antony were—*lists a bunch of generic Roman shit* Girl that’s never what you liked about him?! You got pissed w him for doing it, barely participated &fucked it up? Why is your big list of reasons Antony was great all about shit that idk you didn’t want him to do but then it ruined your life idgi. Also you’re weirdly listing like Caesar ass shit so ??? ‘Good at conquering’ um Marc Antony? I—guess??
By the end I was just like ‘oh my god could like literally every character? also die??’