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Antony and Cleopatra at Theatro Technis | Review

Antony and Cleopatra at Theatro TechnisThere are productions of Antony and Cleopatra that have positioned the play as though Mark Antony (here, Michael Claff, playing the leading man with a mixture of decisiveness and vulnerability) is undergoing a midlife crisis of some sort, and while there are aspects of that in this production from the Acting Gymnasium, there is more of an emphasis on the military, as evidenced (amongst other things) in the contemporary costumes and even rifles where there might otherwise have been swords. A twenty-one strong cast is ambitious, given the current challenges of Covid-related restrictions and socially distanced rehearsals.

Being the sort of play that this is, however, everyone is necessary for the narrative to advance. I would have personally have placed the interval slightly further into Act III rather than at the close of Act II – the fifteen scenes of Act Four (some of which were, mercifully, truncated in any event) seemed to drag on a little. That said, the three-hour running time gives the audience plenty of performance time for their money and allows for full consideration of the play’s various themes.

It will come as no surprise to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Roman Empire that there’s a power struggle going on. Joe Harrell’s Octavius Caesar is measured and controlled, for the most part, a striking contrast to the more expressive Mark Antony, though occasionally Caesar seems too emotionally stilted – his reaction to bad news at the start of Act V Scene I isn’t entirely convincing. Hanna Luna’s Cleopatra had excellent stage presence and brought out the comedy elements of the play very well.

Some contemporary music and dancing at the start of the show is lively, if somewhat freestyle (which is, to be fair, how an actual group at a disco would move around), but also makes one think that things are only going to get considerably darker from that point. By any stretch of the imagination, it’s a minimalist set, without so much as a chair let alone a throne for the likes of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, or Caesar, to sit on. The music, then (James Jones) goes well with the dialogue itself to establish time and place.

Perhaps due to the altered acoustics of the theatre because of socially distanced (that is, reduced) seating, some of the more subtle lines were difficult to fully decipher. A few negligible points, such as a piece of music that almost threatened to drown out a section of dialogue, will undoubtedly be ironed out as the run goes on. Shakespeare purists may not be too keen on how the ‘stresses’ in the iambic pentameter are not always maintained. But so many other aspects of this production are first-rate enough for it to be, overall, a more than satisfying evening, and a stark reminder that self-indulgence is not without its consequences.

Ultimately, this is a triumvirate of acting talent, swift scene changes and a cast evidently enjoying themselves on stage. There is devotion, and there is a sense of responsibility, and this production shows a commitment to both that its leading characters couldn’t quite fully stretch to.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Antony & Cleopatra is Shakespeare’s greatest historical love story.

Antony is captivated by Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Gossip and scandal leads to plots of murder and battles.

Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, having defeated Julius Caesar’s assassins at Philippi, now rule the Roman Empire as a triumvirate.

While in Alexandria however, Antony has become captivated by Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt (and mother to Julius Caesar’s illegitimate son, Caesarion). The gossip and scandal this is creating both amongst Romans in Alexandria and at home in Rome gives rise to dissension between Octavius and Antony, whose behaviour is felt to be debauched and ‘un-Roman’.

Directed by Gavin McAlinden

Acting Gymnasium – Antony and Cleopatra September 28th – October 4th 2020.
Running time 135 mins including a 15-minute interval.



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