Antony and Cleopatra holds a special place in Shakespeare work as a fine example of a mature love tragedy. Written whilst in his forties Shakespeare focuses on two lovers in the autumn of their lives.
This contrasts neatly with last year's Creation Theatre production of Romeo and Juliet performed at the same outdoor venue - the impressive Amphitheatre at Oxford's Said Business School.
In Romeo and Juliet it is the young that are impeded by their elders yet in this play it is the old that are spurned by the young exemplified by the young Octavius Caesar who holds onto authority in Rome while Antony lounges at the Egyptian court 'tippling with a slave'.
Most directors would possibly agree it is not an easy play to stage and that the most successful productions have been those that have been devoid of ostentation and hark back to what we imagine was the early Jacobean model.
The Director, Helen Tennison, has clearly recognised this and with the assistance of Designers Neil Irish and Sarah Bacon has used the amphitheatre subtly proving the adage 'less is more'. On the other hand, maybe the delineation between the two worlds could be clearer. It is a quiet play requiring constant attention. A few visual markers would help.
One last quibble albeit a minor one. As I said, at the beginning, this is a 'mature love' story and one has to question the casting of the leads. Although both Tom Peters as Antony and Lizzie Hopley as Cleopatra perform brilliantly they are possibly too young for their parts. Think for example of some key actors who have played Cleopatra: Glenda Jackson, Harriet Walter and on a lesser note Kim Cattrall. All were all in their forties and fifties when they took on the part.
It has to be said that Creation are now the leading Oxford theatrical company and so far have never failed to deliver. To them location is paramount and they never fail in this aspect. Artistic and Executive Director David Parrish has outlined Creation's adventurous spirit by saying that he found 'theatre in unusual places much more engaging'.
During his tenure, he has clearly stuck to his guns and this cracking production set against a burnished Oxford sky certainly ticked all the creative and artistic boxes.
Edited version of review posted on the Remotegoat website. Production reviewed 19th July 2011.
Photo: Peter Wolfes© Creation Theatre Company 2011 - Cleopatra - Lizzie Hopley, Iras - Raewyn Lippert, Charmain - Lucy-Anne Holmes