Bell Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra

Photos by Heidrun Lohr

“We believe Shakespeare and other great works are not stuck in the past. They are the lens through which we can explore and question the present, and imagine the future. These plays are not static. They’re constantly helping us make sense of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.” – Bell Shakespeare

Despite the fact that Antony and Cleopatra is play that was written in the 16th century England about 1st century BC Egypt and Rome, it’s still very easy to draw relevant parallels to the modern day. In the play, we see some very select people with enormous power over the world, making split second decisions for war and peace based on their ego, jealousy and recent alcohol consumption. Scarily, we can see similar patterns in certain world leaders, as offhand tweets from very powerful people can have sometimes drastic consequences.

Bell Shakespeare’s production highlights the absurdity of these transactions between rulers, costing lives of innocents and constant turmoil in countries with squabbling people in power. It also explores how the masculine ego reacts when confronted by a female leader, and how, despite that leadership, the female’s fate is still decided by male power play. In an age of the gender equality push and #metoo movements, the interaction between Shakespeare’s most powerful female character and the men surrounding her is perhaps more relevant than ever.

This reinterpretation is exciting, tense and extremely witty – what could have previously been performed as a soppy, Romeo/Juliet type love story is re-envisioned into an ironic, black comedy-tragedy. It shows the less-than-perfect side to intense love and how manipulation of that relationship can have disastrous consequences, strengthened by the obviously passionate acting of the entire crew. The production is also INCREDIBLY visually stimulating, despite the contemporary dress and absence of set changes, demonstrating that, with the right suggestions, our own imagination can transform a couple of couches and a set of curtains into the 1st BC Roman Empire.

My suggestion is: instead of settling down on the couch this evening, ready for next Game of Thrones (or whatever equally interesting Netflix series you’re getting through), find the same excitement, drama, sexual tension and betrayals in the atmospheric theatre – Antony and Cleopatra is an absolute must-see.

The show details:

Running time is 2 hours 50 minutes, with interval

Not suitable for children.

Director Peter Evans

Cast includes Catherine McClements, Johnny Carr, Ray Chong Nee, Joseph Del Re, Lucy Goleby, Ursula Mills, Zindzi Okenyo, Gareth Reeves, Steve Rodgers, Jo Turner & Janine Watson.

Bell Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is showing at the Canberra Theatre Centre until Saturday 21st April, with tickets from $39.50. Tickets are available HERE.

*Disclaimer: I attended as a guest of the Canberra Theatre Centre, for which I am very grateful, however all interpretations and opinions are my own. You can read more about my disclosure policy HERE.