The Information on : `Antony and Cleopatra'

What Is It?

Steven Pimlott's new staging of Shakespeare's history play, which has sparked controversy with both its casting, and the graphic sex scene with which the production begins.

Who's In It?

Frances de la Tour plays Cleopatra to Alan Bates's Antony. Guy Henry is Octavius and Malcolm Storry takes the role of Enobarbus.

What They Say About It

"After the instructive fiasco of last year's National Theatre version, starring Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman, the RSC may have taken comfort from the fact that they could hardly do worse. But this production fails to be the glorious exorcism of its predecessor that one had hoped for. True, it is considerably more imaginative, though the imagination in it often feels misplaced," Paul Taylor, The Independent.

"Pimlott undercuts the pomp, beauty and breadth of the play by pushing the informal, bantering aspects to a new low. We see Bates first engaged in a fleeting moment of cunnilingus... but after that gimmicky opening, it's the slackly-staged moments which follow that show up what the production is missing," Robert Butler, The Independent on Sunday.

"Steven Pimlott's production is full of interesting ideas and stark staging," Michael Coveney, Daily Mail.

"...the in-your-face opening seems like adolescent shock tactics... De la Tour might seem improbably cast as Cleopatra, yet she is an actress capable of glowing allure... Pimlott's production, however, is deeply second-rate, and a step backwards for the revitalised RSC," Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph.

Where You Can See It

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon (01789 403403) in rep to 9 Oct