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Antony & Cleopatra
by William Shakespeare

PRODUCTION
NUMBER
424

Thu 27 July - Sat 5 August 2017 at 7.30pm
(no performance Sun 30 July)

Performed in the open air in the
courtyard of Abington Park Museum, Northampton

 


CAST & CREW

Mark Antony Matthew Fell
Cleopatra
Bernie Wood
Octavius Caesar Edward Toone
Enobarbus Nicola Osborne
Dercetus Jen Kenny
Eros Elizabeth Palmer
Euphronius Roger Toone
Charmian Rachel Bedford
Iras April Pardoe
Alexas Michael Street
Mardian Kevin Pinks
Diomedes Brian Harrap
Agrippa Maggie Holland
Octavia Beverley Webster
Proculeius Alistair Way
Thidias Julia Langley
Lepidus Victor Guse
Pompey Rob Kendall
Menas Siôn Grace
Soothsayer Sue Whyte


Director John Myhill
Stage Manager Denise Swann
Backstage Assistance Peter Collins
Sound & Lighting Phil Welsh
Designer Tamsyn Payne
Wardrobe Clare Brittain
Tunics & togas Pam Mann
Armourer Peter Darnell
Set Construction Mark Mortimer
Egyptian Paintings Simon Baird
Box Officer Manager Sue Howes
Front of House Masque Theatre members
Programme Graham Follett
Photography Joe Brown

PREVIEW: 'Expect togas and crowns, short swords and sandals, laughter and tears."
John Myhill, director


Desire. Duty. Divided loyalties.

Cleopatra, the clever queen of Egypt.

Octavius Caesar, the empire builder who made Rome the mightiest power in the world.

Mark Antony, the great general torn between them.

Is Antony neglecting his duties as one third of the triumvirate that rules the Roman Empire, luxuriating with Cleopatra in sensual abandonment? Or is he ready to drop her if duty calls? Is he a lover or a fighter?

Is Cleopatra putting Egypt first by staying loyal to Antony, the great general of past campaigns, or would her country be better protected by alliance with Octavius Caesar, the coming man?

"It's one of Shakespeare's greatest love stories, with humour, drama, tension and tragedy."

Can Octavius trust his old mentor to do the right thing by Rome, or must he divide and conquer? Or can the wily and beautiful queen seduce him like she did his adopted father?

Antony and Cleopatra revolves around this political love triangle, with their supporters torn between following their hearts or their heads, being loyal to their leaders or looking after their own interests.

It’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, with humour, drama, tension and tragedy in ample measure, performed in the beautiful open air courtyard of Abington Park Museum.

Unusually for a Shakespeare production, I have cast equal numbers of women and men, following my decision to open male roles to the many talented women in the group, who have risen to the challenge. If Shakespeare’s original audiences could accept men in women’s roles, even playing Cleopatra, then I am sure modern audiences can accept cross-dressing the other way, especially after recent professional “gender-blind” productions with Maxine Peake as Hamlet, Glenda Jackson as King Lear and Michelle Terry as Henry V. There’s an interesting article about it here.

'Dream cast'

In the title roles are Matt Fell as Antony and Bernie Wood as Cleopatra.

Matt was seen most recently in Dinner and is a regular director, having swapped positions with me having directed me in both 2014’s Much Ado About Nothing and 2015’s Macbeth.

Bernie has just finished a tour with White Cobra Production’s Dizzy Boo and also played the ghost of Shakespeare’s Granddaughter in Masque’s 2016 production of Shaxpeare’s Box, both shows written by local author Brian Wright.

The role of Octavius Caesar is taken by Edward Toone, who was also in Much Ado and Macbeth with John, as Claudio and Ross respectively, while Lady Macbeth from the latter, Nicola Toone, swaps her elegant gown for a soldier’s tunic in the role of Enobarbus, Antony’s right-hand man.

In fact, all of Antony’s men are played by women, with Jen Kenny (one of Macbeth’s witches in 2015) taking the role of Dercetus and newcomer Izzy Palmer playing Eros. Antony’s old tutor Euphronius is played by Ed’s father Roger Toone, last seen in Henry V in 2016.

Caesar also has his share of women soldiers, with his second-in-command Agrippa played by Maggie Holland, another director in her own right (and the memorable title character in The Playhouse’s 2016 production of The Killing of Sister George, and his envoy Thidias played by Julia Langley, seen earlier this year in both Masque’s Playhouse Creatures and The Playhouse’s moving Steel Magnolias.

Caesar’s men are completed by Alistair Way as Proculeius, previously the Sexton in Much Ado and more recently a disco-dancing Wolf in Duston PlayersLittle Red Riding Hood!

There is also a woman in Caesar’s life – his sister Octavia - played by Beverley Webster, director of Playhouse Creatures and Alice in Henry V.

Cleopatra’s court includes handmaidens Charmian and Iras, parts taken respectively by Rachel Bedford (the Beatrice to John’s Benedick in Much Ado and The Witch in Into the Woods from 2014 amongst many other roles) and April Pardoe (Mistress Quickly in last year’s Henry V, a moving Mrs Gibbs in 2015’s Our Town and also in Playhouse Creatures).

Her eunuch Mardian is Kevin Pinks (the scene-stealing Mason from this year’s Journey’s End), her major-domo Diomedes is Brian Harrap (a veteran of many productions, including Henry V last year), and Alexas, her go-between with Antony, is Mike Street, barely out of roman garb as Senex in this years A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum for The Open Theatre Group in Milton Keynes, and Harry “Jazzbo” Heywood in last year’s It’s A Wonderful Life.

Elsewhere in the ancient world, Masque stalwart Rob Kendall (director of Henry V, not to mention 2011’s Romeo & Juliet where I got my first Shakespearian role as the Friar) plays enemy of Rome Sextus Pompey, with newcomer to the group Sion Grace as his piratical sidekick Menas.

Victor Guse, the French King in last year’s show and Editor Webb in Our Town, plays Lepidus, oft-forgotten third member of the ruling Triumvirate, and last but by no means least Sue Whyte, the earthly Doll Common in Playhouse Creatures plays a feminised and more spiritually minded Soothsayer.

I have assembled a dream cast for my first venture into directing the Bard, although studying English at Oxford under the late great Professor Reggie Alton has given me a familiarity with Shakespeare’s texts; and I have previously directed Our Town in 2015, this year’s Dizzy Boo for White Cobra Productions, and many pantomimes and comedies for Duston Players.

Staged in full period costume with a touch of Hollywood glamour, this is one of Shakespeare’s most sumptuous treats. Expect togas and crowns, short swords and sandals, laughter and tears.

 

John directed Our Town (2015) for Masque Theatre and has appeared in The Wind In The Willows (2010), Romeo & Juliet (2011), Rozencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (2012), The Hypochondriac (2013), Much Ado About Nothing (2014), Amadeus (2015), Macbeth (2015) and It’s a Wonderful Life (2016).

 


Page last updated: 07/08/2017 Masque Theatre © 2017

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A painting of Antony
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