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This book writes a performance history of Antony and Cleopatra from 1606 to 2018. After considering the particular challenges Shakespeare’s script offers any actors, directors or designers who stage it, the book looks in detail at Antony and Cleopatra on the Jacobean stage and then at Dryden’s All for Love (the play that replaced Shakespeare’s from the Restoration to 1849). Fast-forwarding across a number of Victorian adaptations and early twentieth century English productions, it arrives at 1953, when, directed by Glen Byam Shaw at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre with Peggy Ashcroft as Cleopatra and Michael Redgrave as Antony, the play’s modern performance history begins. Thereafter, chapters offer in-depth analyses of fifteen productions by (among others) the Royal Shakespeare Company, Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow, Northern Broadsides, Berliner Ensemble and Toneelgroep Amsterdam in five countries and three languages. Combining close readings of theatre records – promptbooks, stage managers’ reports, costume bibles, reviews – with deep historical contextualisation, it sees how, and what, this play has meant each time it has brought its thoughts on power, race, masculinity, regime change, exoticism, love, dotage and delinquency into alignment with a new present. It ends seeing Shakespeare’s black Cleopatra restored to the English stage. Tragedy, comedy, history, farce: this book demonstrates that in performance Antony and Cleopatra is all four.

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A play that ‘approves the common liar’
Carol Chillington Rutter

knows exactly what he's doing: Make your best use of this. (5.2.202) From now on Dolabella will play at ‘Roman thought[s]’– ‘I must attend on Caesar’ (5.2.205) – but he'll perform Egyptian business. His beguiled ‘Sir’ will never penetrate his deception. It's Dolabella, ironically, who will be assigned, in the last lines of the play, in the play's final memorial turn, to arrange the funerals of Antony and Cleopatra (‘Come, Dolabella, see

in Antony and Cleopatra
Foreign Antony and Cleopatra in Britain and abroad
Carol Chillington Rutter

literally inscrutable, offers me an initial paradigm for seeing how the foreign productions of Antony and Cleopatra considered in this chapter have been treated on British stages. The foreign ‘thing’ watched with the boggled Lepidian eyes of the ‘native’ who's half curious, half suspicious of what ‘Johnny foreigner’ is making of ‘our’ Shakespeare turns out to be, like the crocodile, knowable only as ‘it self’ – and ‘strange’. (See, for example, the English newspaper headline to Peter Zadek's 1994 Berliner Ensemble Antony and Cleopatra at the Edinburgh Festival, a

in Antony and Cleopatra
Peter Hall, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, 1987
Carol Chillington Rutter

Rehearsing returns The party-political slogan ‘Back to Basics’ wouldn't be coined for another few years by post-Thatcherite UK Tories anxious to unify the nation under a nostalgic appeal to so-called ‘traditional values’, but it aptly summarises the cultural politics of Peter Hall's Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre (London) in 1987. The ‘basics’ he was returning to – and returning the play to – were theatrical, textual, critical, nationalist: this Antony and Cleopatra would be decidedly English . They were

in Antony and Cleopatra
Glen Byam Shaw, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1953
Carol Chillington Rutter

A pencilled note in the deputy stage manager's promptbook helps situate the production of Antony and Cleopatra that Glen Byam Shaw directed in 1953 at the Stratford-upon-Avon Memorial Theatre with Michael Redgrave and Peggy Ashcroft in the title roles. After ‘Speak not to us’ (1.1.56) the deputy stage manager has scored through half of the editorial stage direction – ‘Ant & Cleo exit with their train ’ – to indicate that the twenty-seven assorted Egyptians who'd massed, at a run, for the star couple's first entrance (‘Look where they come

in Antony and Cleopatra
The Jacobean Antony and Cleopatra
Carol Chillington Rutter

One of the stories Shakespeare tells in Antony and Cleopatra is a political story of regime change, the translatio imperii that marks in geographical terms the progressive shift, historically, of the centre of geo-political and geo-cultural imperial power steadily westwards. Alexandria's fall is Rome's rise. Ordering his lieutenant, ‘Go forth, Agrippa, and begin the fight’, Caesar is announcing a new global settlement, ‘The time of universal peace is near’ (4.6.1,5) – prematurely, as it turns out, since, ironically, the battle he orders

in Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra, 1677–1931
Carol Chillington Rutter

‘After Shakespeare’ What became of Antony and Cleopatra after Shakespeare's lifetime? For readers, the tragedy survived in print, being published in 1623 in the First Folio (along with fifteen other never-before-printed Shakespeare plays), where it was placed just after Othello. For spectators, however, there is no record of the play in the theatre for the next 150 years. It was among the pile of ‘old’ plays assigned at the Restoration to Thomas Killigrew in that notional ‘division of the kingdom’ that divvied up the

in Antony and Cleopatra
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The Citizens’ Theatre (Glasgow), 1972, and Northern Broadsides (Halifax), 1995
Carol Chillington Rutter

revels; Antony Shall be brought drunken forth; and I shall see Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness I'th’ posture of a whore. (5.2.215–220) This future, the high drama of her ‘greatness’ captured for low comedy and coarsened to the tastes of popular culture, is one she doesn't live to see. But her prediction is right. ‘Vulgar fame’ hasn't been able to keep its greasy fingers off Antony and Cleopatra. In

in Antony and Cleopatra
Taking the measure of Antony and Cleopatra, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1972, 1978, 1982
Carol Chillington Rutter

Up-scale Egypt: 1972 In an essay titled ‘Past the Size of Dreaming’ first published in 1977 (too late to be of any use to the recently appointed artistic director of the RSC, Trevor Nunn, as he was planning Antony and Cleopatra for his 1972 season), Bernard Beckerman asked, ‘What are the dimensions of Antony and Cleopatra ? Is it truly “a vast canvas” depicting the clash of empires?’ Or is it as ‘delicate as porcelain, fragile as a lyric of elusive affection’? (Beckerman 1979 , 209). Twenty years earlier, when the play

in Antony and Cleopatra
Shakespeare’s Globe, 1999
Carol Chillington Rutter

Authenticity and its discontents Sweltering in the sun of an uncharacteristically hot English August, the theatre-goers who weren't using their programmes for fans but were flipping through them looking for the plot synopsis and cast list for the just-opened Antony and Cleopatra they'd come to the Globe to see, encountered an advertisement. In bold capitals it told them that the previous year's 7 TIMES ACADEMY AWARD WINNER

in Antony and Cleopatra