Antony & Cleopatra (Midnight Matinee) @ The Globe
We only made our first visit to The Globe a few weeks ago but we couldn’t resist heading back for a Shakespeare with a difference. I’ll admit the idea of the Midnight Matinee (it is as it sounds – a performance at midnight) was wonderful and worrying in equal measure, if only because I’m more lark than nightingale, but nonetheless we found ourselves wandering Southwark after sundown in preparation for the night’s entertainment.
There was a very special feeling as we finally arrived on Bankside. The mood may have been a little subdued due to the lateness of the hour but the excitement of the audience was palpable and gave the endeavour a festival-like feel. As I surveyed the crowd it seemed all London was represented, from aloof hipsters making questionable decisions (what sort of person seriously feels it is acceptable to bring a baby to a play, and at midnight in pouring rain no less?), to families and from Shakespeare aficionados to curious tourists. Between the bustle of people queuing for coffee and those snapping up ponchos, cushions or blankets it took a while to find our seats, but eventually we got into place and watched the theatre fill up. It’s lovely to see just how many people are willing to head to the theatre in the middle of the night!
As for the play itself, well I’ll be honest and say Antony & Cleopatra is probably one of the Shakespeare plays I know least about (beyond the basics of its historical setting at least). Immediately though it’s clear this production trades on the glaring differences between the sumptuous decadence of Cleopatra’s Egypt and the military rigidity of the Roman Empire. These differences are played out in the two leads, Eve Best’s Cleopatra is flirtatious, coy and prone to fits of temper that are dropped in the blink of an eye. She steals a drink from an audience member, plants a kiss on another and generally creates the picture of a woman adored by all around her.
Antony on the other hand is a warrior born and bred. Clive Wood portraying him as a man whose soldiers love him because they see he is one of them. He always seems more at home drinking with his men than in the arms of the exotic queen whose sultry charms have hooked him.
Elsewhere Phil Daniels makes an engagingly earthy Enobarbus, shining both in his description of Cleopatra on her golden barge and in his breakdown later on in the play as he is torn between his love for Antony and his growing belief that he is backing the wrong team. It’s a wonderfully underplayed moment and possibly the best of the production, standing alongside even Best’s poignant mourning speech as she asks Dolabella “Do you think there ever was, or could there ever be, a man such as the one I dreamed about?”.
In all then, a fantastic show and one made more magical by the setting. It’s clear the cast are relishing the abnormality of the performance and they all show an impish delight in the revelry and chaos of the Egyptian scenes.
We top the night off with a delicious bacon buttie before heading off to our hotel, tired but happy after a fantastic evening.