Antony and Cleopatraperformed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (Swan), and: Richard IIperformed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RST), and: Thomas of Woodstockperformed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (Barbican Theatre)
Antony and CleopatraPresented by the Royal Shakespeare Companyat the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. 11 7- 30, 2013. Directed and adapted by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. Designed by Tom Piper. Lighting by Stephen Strawbridge. Music by Michael Thurber. Movement by Gelan Lambert. With Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Samuel Collings (Octavius), Ash Hunter (Pompey/Alexas/Scarus), Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Charise Castro-Smith (Octavia/Iras), Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Ian Lassiter (Agrippa/Thyreus), Chivas Michael (Mardian/Eros/Soothsayer), and Henry Stram (Lepidus/Proculeius).
Richard IIPresented by the Royal Shakespeare Companyat the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Barbican Theatre, London, England. 10 10, 2013-01 25, 2014. Directed by Gregory Doran. Designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis. Lighting by Tim Mitchell. Sound by Martin Slavin. Music by Paul Englishby. Movement by Mike Ashcroft. Fights by Terry King. With Elliot Barnes-Worrell (Groom), Antony Byrne (Mowbray), Sean Chapman (Northumberland), Marty Cruickshank (Duchess of York), Oliver Ford Davies (Duke of York), Gracy Goldman (Lady-in-Waiting), Marcus Griffiths (Greene), Emma Hamilton (The Queen), Jim Hooper (Bishop of Carlisle), Youssef Kerkour (Willoughby), Jane Lapotaire (Duchess of Gloucester), Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke), Jake Mann (Bagot), Sam Marks (Bushy), Miranda Nolan (Lady-in-Waiting), Keith Osborn (Scroop), Michael Pennington (John of Gaunt), Joshua Richards (Ross/Lord Marshall), Oliver Rix (Aumerle), David Tennant (Richard II), Simon Thorp (Salisbury), and Edmund Wiseman (Harry Percy).
Thomas of WoodstockStaged reading presented by the Royal Shakespeare Companyat the Barbican Theatre, London, England. 12 21, 2013. Directed by Owen Horsley. Music by Anna Bolton. Sopranos: Anna Bolton and Helena Raeburn. With Elliot Barnes-Worrell (Greene), Antony Byrne (Thomas of Woodstock [End Page 310]), Sean Chapman (Earl of Surrey/Ghost of the Black Prince), Marty Cruickshank (Duchess of Ireland), Oliver Ford Davies (Ghost of Edward III), Marcus Griffiths (Scroop), Gracy Goldman (Duchess of Gloucester), Emma Hamilton (Cynthia/Courtier), Jim Hooper (Gaunt), Youssef Kerkour (Servant/Lapoole), Jake Mann (King Richard II), Sam Marks (Treselian), Miranda Nolan (Anne of Bohemia), Keith Osborn (York), Joshua Richards (Earl of Arundel/Murderer), Oliver Rix (Bushy), Simon Thorp (Thomas Cheyney/Murderer), and Edmund Wiseman (Bagot).
I first went to Antony and Cleopatraon press night, watching it from a side seat in Gallery One, so I was above and slightly behind some of the action on the thrust stage. I had deliberately stayed away from reading any of the pre-publicity or discussing the production with anyone who had seen it in previews, wanting to come at it fresh although I knew it had been billed as an “adaptation” by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. I had been aware of McCraney’s playwriting work since he made his Young Vic debut with The Brothers Size; this version of Antonypremiered shortly after he had been awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant. It was from these points of view that I first encountered the production.
It started with a jolt as Enobarbus spoke the first lines, his “barge of burnished gold” speech establishing him as the evening’s narrator. Since this Antonywas an Anglo-American co-production, I expected to see the British Empire (Rome) pitted against the crass American (Egyptian) upstarts. Instead, the American members of the cast adopted either Received Pronunciation or Caribbean-infused speech patterns, seemingly to allow a distinction between the perceived cultural superiority of RP for the Romans juxtaposed with the “other” of Caribbean accents for those under the imperial yoke. Only once, in the brief cameo of Ian Lassiter’s Thyreus, did anyone sound American.
The production was simple with little scenery apart from a pool of water against the upstage wall. This choice reminded me of the Young Vic production of McCraney’s The Brothers Size, which also featured minimal décor and in which the emotional lives of the characters were forcefully conveyed to the audience by actors’ physicality, an effect McCraney seemed to be trying to recreate here. The infusion of African music and representation of superstition was...