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Anthony and Cleopatra

Oran Mor, Glasgow
4 stars
The all too brief summer season of abbreviated classics that have graced Oran Mor over the last month has shown how apparently difficult material can be presented in fresh ways yet remain faithful to the works’ complexities. Mary McCluskey’s hour-long version of one of Shakespeare’s most grown-up plays is a fitting finale, managing to convey with only three actors the contrary tale of love and war with fury, passion and, as befits any Kenny Miller production, bucket-loads of style. It’s also extremely sexy.

Opening with Andrew Clark’s Roman emperor and Lorna McDevitt’s Egyptian queen at either end of the catwalk that has been in place for all four shows, laying prostate between them is Candida Benson, who, as go-between, chorus, clown and narrator, must carry the bulk of the action. It’s a feat she achieves with winsome, barefoot abandon, as the lovers never quite resolve how to conquer nations as well as each other’s hearts.

Clark and McDevitt go at the text as if wielding a weapon, battering each other into submission before the monarchs’ inevitable demise. Not, though, before McDevitt’s catty queen has her ego massaged by hr minions. Sitting regally astride a transparent plastic chair that acts as Cleopatra’s throne prior to launching herself into the fray, McDevitt sports the sort of gown which seems to stay in place only by sheer pneumatic will-power.

If at times the action suffers simply because of unavoidable talkiness, the delivery from all parties is intense enough to carry things through to its bittersweet conclusion. When Cleopatra puts the asp to her breast, the poison is all hers.

Sponsored by Corona

The Herald, June 24th 2009

ends

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