Posted by: Natalie | May 7, 2010

Maintaining Interest

Shakespeare, I have to say, struggled somewhat with this. I find it so difficult to maintain pace, interest and clear characterisation throughout a whole story. This is what I am working on. I need to try and interest the reader through every page and every line. Old Bill however, didn’t really see the point in doing this. I have a sneaky suspicion that “Antony and Cleopatra” may have been one of those works that he simply couldn’t be bothered reading through once complete.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the general story has promise and should be enthralling – but maybe that’s just the historical aspect? Or maybe it’s just me? But I don’t understand how such a dazzling story can be made to feel quite so tedious by the time the show is over.  It is supposed to be a tragedy, but for me, it was the dragging second half that was really tragic.

Last night, Steve and I went to Stratford to watch said production. I did enjoy it, but it had precious little to do with Shakey’s work. It was the cast and their individual performances that made it something wonderful. It was not on a par to King Lear which we saw in March but again, that was a play that had clearly been worked over and over in order to create a climatic work of genius, and then given a stunning cast too. There were many cross overs of cast in last night’s performance including Darrell D’Silva playing Antony (previously Kent in Lear – who also managed to shoot his own hand during technical rehearsals!) and the wonderful Kathryn Hunter, Lear’s enigmatic fool, playing Cleo.

She is incredible! I was blown away when she played the sorrowful fool in King Lear, but her depiction of Cleopatra was something else entirely! The Queen of Egypt obviously didn’t like to take no for an answer and this version was no exception. Hunter played the empress with an exaggerated female prerogative which seemed slightly unhinged yet perfectly manipulating, with wit and intelligence. She was hilarious! She displayed all the emotions that we females often try (and fail) to hide from our male counterparts. We don’t often like to admit that we are the creatures of stereotype that the men in our lives mock us for, but Kathryn’s Cleo had no such shame. She was so proud of her female stance that she was not afraid to show these flips and swings and manipulations to anyone who entered her sphere.

You could feel Antony’s exasperation at times (particularly after he discovered that his attempted suicide was fruitless – Cleo had only ‘pretended’ to be dead) from her constant attention seeking. But, their love was of such a passionate and unbridled nature that any of her feminine whims could be forgiven. I sincerely doubt Steve would have been as ‘understanding’ as Marc Antony!

And the vast majority of this characterisation, I believe, came from this award winning actress – there is no way Shakespeare could have delivered such a performance on the page. I was so entranced by Hunter that the first thing I did this morning was read up on her. It little surprises me though that she is famous for taking on predominantly male roles in the RSC. She has played both King Lear and Richard III in the past . . .

But, I was most impressed with realising I have seen her before, even before watching her as the Fool. You have watched her too, if you have watched the Harry Potter films! Remember Harry and Dudley being attacked by Dementors? Remember who was placed in Little Whinging to watch over Harry? Remember Mrs Figg?!

If you ever get a chance to see her in theatre – do. I think she is wonderful. I am sure there must be clips of her on YouTube or similar, but I found none that really did her justice. RSC tickets can be so cheap (if you don’t mind perching on high chairs) that it would really be a tragedy if you never saw her act.

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