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Antony and Cleopatra - National Theatre 1998

I attended both the final preview and the press night of the much anticipated "A&C" with Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren in the title roles as directed by Sean Mathias.  I'm a very big Rickman fan, even after seeing his supremely awful Hamlet.  Silly me, I thought that was a fluke and blamed the director.  But he mumbled and slurred and staggered through the role of Marcus Antonius as he did in that 1993 production directed by Robert Sturua.  It was agony, frankly.

The play is too long and too complex to survive any but a tight and vigorous production.  That was not what we saw.  At the 3 hour mark  when that Antony dies, many in the audience were all wishing we could have gone with him.  There was still another 45 minutes to go, and Helen Mirren hadn't yet got her kit off (the woman is incorrigible).

The one member of the cast who got top marks from me (and the audience) was Finbar (pka Barry) Lynch as Enobarbus.  This is the best role in the play, I think, and Lynch's performance was wonderful.  Crisp and lucid verse, totally understandable, totally believeable.  The contrast with Rickman's mush was embarassing.

I apologise for the negative tone of this review, reflecting my very great disappointment.  I wish I'd gone to see "The Real Inspector Hound" and "Black Comedy" instead. :-(

(Christine Lehmkuhl)

Originally published on

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