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Shakespeareana

Available versions

1972: Charlton Heston

1974: John Scoffield

1981: Jonathan Miller

1984: Lawrence Carra

2015: Jonathan Munby


Related

Macbeth, 1954: George Schaefer (extras)

2015: Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2, Episode 5


Antony and Cleopatra
1974: Jon Scoffield

Based on a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company designed by Trevor Nunn, this deviates from the bulk of his work by being set in the time and place it’s supposed to represent. The characters are, shockingly, dressed as Egyptians and Romans.

This is definitely a reasonable candidate to choose if you can only find one version to see. The cinematic quality is not spectacularly good, and the print even on DVD is a little coarse. But the acting is unparalleled. Richard Johnson’s performance as Antony itself is worth comparing to Heston’s: he brings far more variety and nuance to the part, and manages to convey a genuine sense of internal conflict. He is at once a sensualist seeking his own pleasure, but still always trying to justify it to himself and to his band of admirers and followers. He’s an intensely private man and at the same time he’s engaged in play-acting at every point. His diction is ranges from restrained to explosive and back again, but mostly restrained. As an approach to the material, it is consummately suited to the intimacy that the close-up camera work suggests.

Janet Suzman’s Cleopatra is his equal. She’s the soul of quicksilver-changeableness in both her speech and her body language. She postures incessantly, expressing a fickle and volatile Cleopatra — now pouting, and now expostulating; reproving Antony for his slack attentions, and reading him the riot act for his inadequate morals. She is an unfathomable, perhaps unknowable, woman — and thereby all the more fascinating.

Followers of popular culture will be intrigued to see Patrick Stewart (with hair) as Enobarbus. There are few other spectacularly well-known actors of the same order, with the possible exception of Corin Redgrave. Most of them, however, were stalwarts of the Royal Shakespeare Company during its golden age, and they knew how to wring the range of meanings from their lines with unparalleled precision, so that this potentially declamatory material takes on the appearance of completely natural dialogue. There’s a richness about this production that makes it fully cinematic (though not on the order of the Heston version of two years earlier), but it is all put at the service of the text and its nuanced delivery.


Agrippa: Philip Locke

Alexas: Darien Angadi

Charmian: Rosemary McHale

Cleopatra: Janet Suzman

Cleopatra’s Eunuch: Douglas Anderson

Cleopatra’s Eunuch: Michael Egan

Cleopatra’s Eunuch: Paul Gaymon

Cleopatra’s Messenger: Joseph Charles

Cleopatra’s Schoolteacher: Lennard Pearce

Cleopatra’s Servant: Tony Osoba

Dercetas: Jonathan Holt

Diomedes: Loftus Burton

Enobarbus: Patrick Stewart

Eros: Joe Marcell

Fig Seller: Geoffrey Hutchings

Iras: Mavis Taylor Blake

King: Derek Wright

King: Frederick Radley

King: Nicholas McArdle

King: Norman Caro

King: Richard Young

Lepidus: Raymond Westwell

Marc Antony: Richard Johnson

Mardian : Sidney Livingstone

Octavia: Mary Rutherford

Octavius (Augustus Caesar): Corin Redgrave

Scarus: Morgan Sheppard

Servant: Amanda Knott

Servant: Edwina Ford

Servant: Gito Santana

Servant: Joe Rock

Servant: Madelaine Bellamy

Servant: Wendy Bailey

Silius: Christopher Jenkinson

Soldier: William Huw-Thomas

Soldier: David Janes

Soldier: Geoffrey Greenhill

Soldier: Jeremy Pearce

Soldier: Mark Sheridan

Soothsayer: John Bott

Ventidius : Constantin De Goguel

Watchman: Robert Oates

Watchman: Arthur Whybrow

Watchman: Michael Radcliffe