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Antony and Cleopatra
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The Winter’s Tale
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
1984: Lawrence Carra

This is the first of a collection of nine plays given by the title “The Plays of William Shakespeare”. All in all, it seems an overly ambitious title for a collection of only nine. Whether the makers originally projected more, however, their avowed aim was two-fold: to stage the plays “as originally seen in the sixteenth century”, and to render them accessible to students without strange accents (whatever those might be). How a play written in about 1608 might have been seen in the sixteenth century is a question I leave to heads wiser than my own. I can’t get it to work. Otherwise, they are produced with relatively good actors — with a preference for those with some Hollywood recognition — but with a minimum of supporting material.

The present film is a case in point. It is filled with well-known Hollywood names, from both television and motion pictures. Antony is played by Timothy Dalton, a one-time James Bond and a player in a vast array of films; Cleopatra is Lynn Redgrave, who brings to the role a more appealing vulnerability than I’ve seen elsewhere. Her role, above all the rest, is probably the most critical to making the play work, and so her delivery of her part is central to its success. The whole production seems to have been a bit Star [Trek] struck: Charmian is none other than Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), while Pompey is Walter Koenig (Chekhov).

All in all, the whole company seems to do a perfectly adequate job within the bounds of the modest production constraints. The delivery is lively, the script is not cut brutally, and the whole is eminently watchable. The only member of the cast who seemed really out of her depth was Kim Miyori, playing Iras: her delivery struck me as particularly wooden, as if she didn’t really understand what she was saying much of the time. Walter Koenig’s middle American accent (no Russian overtones here) also sounded a mite flat when surrounded by the mellifluous stage British diction of the bulk of the cast. He is clearly not as comfortable with Shakespearean diction as many of the others, but he does understand what he’s saying, and expresses it forcefully and sensibly.

All that being the case, I can certainly commend this to anyone’s attention. I don’t think anyone is going to find it magnificently revelatory; there are more nuanced performances of virtually all these roles elsewhere. And yet the whole is harmonious and worthwhile. I can certainly recommend it — without remarkable enthusiasm, but recommend it nevertheless.

I still don’t think they’re going to be able to reproduce the play as it was performed in the sixteenth century.


Agrippa: Tom Rosqui

Alexas: Anthony Holland

Charmian: Nichelle Nichols

Cleopatra: Lynn Redgrave

Dolabella: John Devlin

Enobarbus: Barrie Ingham

Eros: Brian Kerwin

Euphronius: Dan Mason

Extra: Randall Brady

Iras: Kim Miyori

Lepidus: Earl Boen

Maecenas: Earl Robinson

Marc Antony: Timothy Dalton

Mardian: James Avery

Menas: Ted Sorel

Messenger: Joseph R. Sicari

Octavia: Sharon Barr

Octavius Caesar: Anthony Geary

Pompey: Walter Koenig

Proculeius: Henry Sutton

Rustic: Jack Gwillim

Seleucus: Ralph Drischell

Silius: Claude Woolman

Soldier: Alex Wright

Soldier: Grey O’Neil

Soldier: Michael Keys Hall

Soldier: Paul Bowman

Soldier: Tom Everett

Soothsayer: John Carradine

Thidias: Alvah Stanley

Ventidius: Michael Billington