It’s summer time, and we’re having far too much fun deepening the channel between the UK and Europe, and changing all our UK political leaders, to be bothered with running play-readings or reviewing Shakespeare plays. However we are still editing more Shakespeare plays into our online format (MFFEV5) preparing for play-readings in the autumn, etc, and we’ve just published our first version of Antony and Cleopatra in MFFEV5 format, ready for a play-reading here in Edinburgh some time in the autumn.
We still have to add the sidebar for the play, and add some further castings. At the moment there are castings for 7, 8, and 9 players, as well as the original casting for 25 players (excluding another 7 non-speaking parts) playing 59 speaking roles – it’s an epic! Cecil B DeMille should have a look at it!
What an interesting play it is. Before editing it, I’d seen a couple of productions, but didn’t really know it very well. To whet your appetite, and encourage you to have a look at it (it’s at: https://players-shakespeare.com/mffev5-antony-and-cleopatra-online/?page=s|A1S1.html%3Ff ) here’s a few of the things that I’ve found interesting (I’ll be writing a more considered view of the play later):
- Before editing the play, I thought of it as very much a love story between Antony and Cleopatra. Of course it is that, but it is also a story of political intrigue between Caesar, Antony, and Pompey. Combining the two plots adds much to the interest, at least when seriously reading the play.
- There’s quite a lot of scenes which explore Jacobean views of men and women. Although, of course, quite ‘politically-incorrect’ to a modern audience, I find them rather fun: Cleopatra and her female attendants bitching about Octavia; men getting drunk together; and, a personal favourite; well-traveled Romans telling stay-at-homes of the wonders of Egypt and Cleopatra.
- In a sense, it’s a continuation of Julius Caesar. Antony and Octavius, who defeat Brutus and Cassius in Julius Caesar, are the Antony and Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra. With a very little bridging script, it should be possible to run the two plays together and make a series.
- I found the death of Cleopatra deeply moving. As she summons up the courage to put the asp to her breast, she reconciles herself to death by thinking of her coming reunification with the already dead Antony. When my mother died, she too, came to terms with approaching death by the thought of being reunited with her husband who had been dead for 30+ years. As well as that, a favourite story of mine from Ovid’s Metamorphosis is of the old couple, guardians of a temple, who are hospitable to Zeus when he stays the night. As a reward he grants them a wish, and they choose to be re-united in death. When they feel death approaching, they run towards each other, and are turned into trees, either side of the temple door, with their branches intertwining.
- The cast is enormous. In among the minor parts, there are 8 messengers; 6 soldiers; 4 guards; 2 watchmen. Curiously 3 of the messengers, 3 of the soldiers, and 3 of the guards, appear together, each in their own scene, so in a production, you could have fun using the same actors playing each of those messengers, soldiers, and guards, and build some fun business across them.
- With a cast of 59 speaking roles, and an original cast of 25, I feared it would be difficult to get a practical smallish play-reading cast, but it looks as if 7, 8. or 9 players should be able to read the play. Of course, they’ve all got to play quite a few roles (an average of over 6 each), but I’m pretty hopeful that our play-reading software will manage that effectively. We’ll find out when we read the play in the autumn, and will let you know in a play-reading report.
I hope that has whetted your appetites. You can read the play at:
We’ll be adding some more cast lists to the play and adding a sidebar to make it easier to play-read, but you can use the Cloud configurator in the meantime.
If you ‘like’ our Facebook page, you’ll get updates on Facebook on what’s happening on Players-Shakespeare.com