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Antony and Cleopatra

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four Stars

From the moment the somewhat seasoned lovers romp on the chaise longue at one end of the Kibble Palace, alpha-male privilege abounds in Bard in the Botanics’ fresh take on one of Shakespeare’s most grown-up plays that forms part of the company’s Star Cross’d Lovers season. Andy Clark’s Antony is a man who simply can’t stop conquering. Shirking every responsibility he’s got while off the leash abroad, his mid-life crisis ego trip finds him playing away to the max.

Cleopatra too has got her second emotional wind and is going for it big time by way of epic mood-swings that are are a heady mix of passion and needy insecurity. Cooper’s Cleopatra all but whoops on learning of the death of Antony’s (third) wife Fulvia, even though it’s this incident that puts nations as well as hearts at stake. If Antony wants his cake as well as eating it when he marries Octavius Caesar’s kid sister Octavia, it’s international diplomacy as much as conjugal rights that are doomed.

With director Gordon Barr’s adaptation stripped down to accommodate a cast of eight, such a relatively minimal approach allows the political ramifications of the central romance to breathe unencumbered by assorted entourages. Clark and Cooper are perfect foils here, with Clark’s charismatic roughshod swagger a sinewy counterpoint to Cooper’s vivacious intelligence. There is some fine sparring elsewhere too, with the confrontation between Cleopatra and Leonora Cooke’s Octavia a searing insight of what happens when the scorned wife meets the other woman.

There is fine support too from Adam Donaldson as a flintily driven Octavius. But it is Cooper’s Cleopatra who goes from strength to strength here. She seems to grow in stature even as she makes the grandest of gestures in this ferocious study of a world-changing affair.

The Herald, May 25th 2018


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