Casting asp-ersions on Cleopatra
Audiences could flock to this as to the scene of an aircraft crash. Multi-reviled and with reason, its cast of international origins if not stature have their various ways with English vowels while Antony's gaudy night sounds as riveting as an evening in with the shipping forecast.
All this plus a director (Vanessa Redgrave) who keeps letting go of the narrative thread and loses any focus in the large-cast scenes. Then there's the designer (Vanessa Redgrave) whose ruined city set (Berlin or Vienna maybe, after the war) creates a huge undefined area and tucks the one interesting, raised area in a distant corner.
On tour the proscenium may improve the concentration of the playing area. And there will still be a Cleopatra (Vanessa Redgrave) achieving sublime consummation in her death, some decent performances (David Harewood's rightly praised Enobarbus in particular), and deft directorial touches.
There is mystery amid hectic events as god deserts Antony, while the promotion to consort-apparent of Mardian (sweet-singing Richard Standing) and his distress at being unable to help the arrested Cleopatra make concrete the reference to the rule of eunuchs.
A nice touch is the "poor Egyptian" beggar, huddled and ignored until Antony's blessing gives him voice and he becomes the serious clown whose asp brings the end of empire.
Touring September 20-November 11 to Guildford, Malvern, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Canterbury, Cardiff, Plymouth, Bath and Woking. Runs 3 hours 15 minutes.