First Night: Antony and Cleopatra, Liverpool Playhouse

4.00

Cattrall is bold, barefoot and breathtaking

Kim Cattrall, slinky Samantha Jones of Sex and the City, returned to her home town last night and sailed up the Nile in triumph. After a jerky start, she proved a svelte and melodious Cleopatra, barefooted and skittish of movement, sharp of tongue and swift of temper.

She has been helped towards this success by one of the best Cleopatras in the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Janet Suzman, her director, with whom she worked on the London stage 10 years ago.

Since then, Cattrall, who was born in Liverpool before emigrating with her family to Toronto, returning to train as an actress in London, has appeared with Eddie Izzard in a David Mamet play at the Donmar Warehouse and, earlier this year, as an irresistible Amanda in Noel Coward's Private Lives in the West End.

She's paired with a grizzled but idiosyncratic Jeffery Kissoon as Antony, and the two of them are clearly struggling towards the end of an affair that was too good to last, swamped in political developments and pressures from Rome, where the bloodless young Octavius Caesar is pushing for a tripartite coalition.

Suzman, with designer Peter McKintosh, stages the tragedy simply and sensibly on a mostly bare stage surrounded by brick walls, with light black curtains and smoking lanterns descending for the pleasures of the East. There's a stage wide gantry that serves well as a military viewpoint, the prow of Pompey's boat and the upper level from which the defeated, dying Antony is winched down (not up, for a change) to Cleopatra's dark monument.

There, Cattrall and her women brace themselves for the magnificent last act, at first trembling at the prospect of a humiliating procession through Syria, then outwitting their captors with the deadly asp. Cattrall's invocation of her splendid soldier, islands and realms falling from his pockets as plates, his livery a promenade of crowns, is breathtaking.

The play is full of so many messages and relayed commands and bad news that you wonder if anything similar could ever be written in this age of text and tweet. The way people talk about each other and impart information is so glorious and interesting, it defies the modern grunt and groan of daily intercourse, and renews our appetite for language.

Not just when Ian Hogg's authoritative Enobarbus describes the barge she sat in – audible intake of breath around the auditorium, as usual – but in the exchanges with the fluting eunuch Mardian (Offue Okegbe) and the flayed Thidias – interestingly doubled with Pompey by a youthful Oliver Hoare.

The epic and the battles are all in the language, no need of glorious Technicolor, as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton discovered to their cost. Suzman brings her actors right into our laps, even in the formality of the Playhouse's proscenium, and the couple's one other gaudy night is beautifully played by Kissoon and Cattrall, Cleo suddenly remembering it's her birthday and dissolving in giggles.

Oddly, the marital pawn in the political game, Octavia, is played by a tall blond man, but as Mark Sutherland also plays Antony's loyal henchman Eros, we can perhaps detect a deliberate ambisexual ploy; and this Octavius might well have a peculiar sibling.

Kissoon is a heaving, blubbering, charismatic man of war with a silver hip-flask. But the night belongs to Cattrall, who rises to the challenge of the greatest Shakespearean female role magnificently.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?