ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
A first look at the Globe's new Antony and Cleopatra.
Is this to be the season of the censer? Clouds of incense to mask the bloody excesses of Titus, and they're blowing again now in Ancient Egypt – two bronze bowls suspended from the heavens, with oriental carpets up there too.
A lively, noisy melting-pot dance before the show proper starts, so no jig at the end, though at the second preview there was a bouquet from the yard for Cleo, which doesn't happen very often in the Wooden O. The set, designed by Colin Richmond, hides the frons scenae behind a red wooden structure not unlike the NT's striking Shed just along the river. There's a splendid war-torn map of the region, too. The actors wear Jacobean costume, which is both original practice and meaningful: these politicians are as devious as those Tudor plotters in the RSC's Wolf Hall. Egypt does get some local colour, with a fetching riding outfit for the Queen as she goes to war.
Eve Best plays Cleopatra as a very English, no-nonsense woman, touch of hippy, touch of La Redgrave. Lots of flirting with the groundlings as well as with her eunuch [Obioma Ugoala], but some stunning stillness towards the end – Withered is the Garland of the War. And, in death, she sits upright in mummified majesty on her splendid winged throne.
Jolyon Coy and Clive Wood are the boy Caesar and the dying lion, with Phil Daniels a dry, intriguing Enobarbus, delivering his “barge” speech with relish and a hint of cynicism. Strong martial presence from Philip Correia's Pompey, abseiling down the red wooden wall.
Jonathan Munby's pacy production - “I will to Egypt” says Antony, and instantly it's all around him – does have some lazy moments [the Egyptian bacchanal an excuse for a hackneyed drinking scene] but much to enjoy: the flag fighting, the messenger scene, the aerial ballet, Cleopatra joining the line of sad captains, Antony walking past as Enobarbus calls on him as he dies.
Not nearly so much blood as in Titus of course, though those groundling bringing in hot dogs after the interval might have been disturbed by the sight of Jonathan Bonnici's soothsayer examining some very gory entrails ...