Bard on the Beach

Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra

Venue: Vanier Park

Dates: 13 June to 23 September

Reviewer:Jane Penistan

On a beautiful summer evening Bard on the Beach opened its twelfth season with Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra. This romantic history is set on a multi-level stage with classical pillars framing the sun dappled backdrop of the North Shore mountains. Shakespeare couldn't have asked for a more dramatic setting for his recounting of the ill-fated love between the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and the Roman general Marc Anthony.

Potter opens the play with Anthony's death scene performed in rehearsal clothes and with the actor's holding prompt books, then flashes back to the original first scene with the actors in full costume. The political themes and the opposing or allied military and naval forces are clearly defined. The rousing convivial banquet on board Pompey's ship closes the first act in a dazzling display of superficial loyalty and brotherly amity overlying treachery and distrust.

Apart from this scene there is little apparent enjoyment in this production. Cleopatra does not revel in her games with Anthony, nor does she bask in her luxurious state as Queen of Egypt and Anthony's conqueror. Anthony lacks pride in the power of which he boasts and the esteem in which he knows himself to be held. For all Caesar's professed affection for his sister Octavia, there is little warmth in their embraces. Only Enobarbus is believable in his admirable and admiring description of Cleopatra's barge on the Nile and in his troubled conscience as he changes his allegiance.

Other telling performances are those of Agrippa, Eros, the chastised messenger, the Soothsayer and the gentle clown who brings Cleopatra the basket of asps. The director and the actor use the old meaning of clown as a simple rather than a comic figure, and here there is real humanity.

Audibility is not a failing of this large cast: Shakespeare's text is well heard.

Anthony and Cleopatra runs at Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park from 13 June to 23 September. Performance times: Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm; Saturdays at 4.30 pm and 8.30 pm: Sundays at 7 pm. It will be joined in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew from June 26 to 23 September. Tickets: Evenings $25; 4pm Saturdays: $21.50; 1 pm matinees:$15; Previews:$15. Advance Booking: 604.739.0559.

© 2001, Jane Penistan

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