Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Suzman Cleopatra

I was telling the keeper of the Chez Buce Netflix queue that my favorite Antony and Cleopatra--indeed, the only good one I had ever seen before just now--was the Jonathan Miller BBC staging with Jane LaPotaire, which some would think of a the "alternative" A&C.  This is the one where Cleo is emphatically not a sex goddess: she is an aging ex-charmer playing out the last cards in her deck.  This has always seemed exactly right to me and I've been meaning for some time to seek it out and take another look.

This looked like it would be the occasion. But somehow (the fault may well have been mine) we got our wires crosses and came up with an entirely different production--the Royal Shakespeare Company presentation with Janet (not Jane) Suzman, which neither of us had ever seen before. A lucky accident: this is a thrilling production and I'm surprised and a bit sorry for myself that I had never seen it before. 

It's a bit of a surprise in one respect: watching, I assumed that the Suzman must be later than (and influenced by) the LaPotaire.  But no: the Suzman is from 1974 and the LaPotaire from 1981.  This is an eye-opener for me (at least) in that Suzman, too, plays Cleo as an aging charmer who has to work harder and harder with the resources she has on hand.   It's not so explicit as (I remember) the Potaire, but it's certainly not Elizabeth Taylor, nor any of the array of Cleopatras who seem to think they are covering for Brigitte Bardot.

I should say a word, too, about Richard Johnson as her Antony--again, not a toyboy but a weathered old soldier full of possibilities that will no longer be explored.  I thought he got off to a shaky start but in the middle, as his world begins to fall apart around him, he really soared.  I see by Dr. Google that LaPotaire's Antony was Colin Blakely who ought to  be up to the role.  But oddly enough, right now (i.e.,not having seen it for years) I can't even bring him to mind.

Must be an old guy thing: I find myself more and more attracted to the task of reviewing old favorites, even if in new guise, rather than tackling something completely new. Now, if we can scare up a copy of the Miller/LaPotaire. ...

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