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
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'