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Antony and Cleopatra review at Royal Exchange Manchester

The battle of the sexes, wrapped in an intoxicating mixture of sex and politics, is how director Braham Murray presents Shakespeare’s last great love story.

This experienced director, alongside designer Johanna Bryant, cleverly contrasts the worlds of Egypt and Rome with two separate arenas within the Exchange’s circular stage. The golden Egyptian court glides seductively across the floor in sharp contrast to the cold grey stone of the Roman forum dominated by metallic shields of power.

Although the period is indeterminate, with ski-booted Roman soldiers, dressed in vaguely Edwardian uniforms, the women are clad in sumptuous style and there’s evocative music composed by Tayo Akinbode.

Josette Bushell-Mingo’s Cleopatra is a modern ruler, part woman but mainly politician, while Tom Mannion’s Antony is already a ruined man with only a vestige left of the Roman general.

Terence Wilton, as the soldierly Enobarbus, delivers the ‘Age cannot wither her’ speech in a martial manner, which is surprisingly successful, in spite of an irritating mobile phone.

Murray’s energetic production is played at tremendous pace, which adds vitality to the political scenes and means that the inevitable destruction of this volatile relationship happens with incredible speed. Poignancy may be lacking but politically, Murray reiterates, this was a destructive love, which shook the known world.

But what remains in the mind’s eye is not so much the performances but the stunning visual imagery of a mist-wreathed galleon, Antony’s last frenzied attack and the Queen’s final moments.

Production Information

Royal Exchange, Manchester, February 25-April 9

Author
William Shakespeare
Director
Braham Murray
Producer
Royal Exchange
Cast includes
Josette Bushell-Mingo, Tom Mannion, Terence Wilton and James Howard
Running time
3hrs

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