West End or Off-West End?
People go to Off-West End productions for many good reasons: to support local theatres, boycott West End high prices, watch plays at affordable prices before they move to West End and mind this, a lot of them do. Royal Court Theatre and Almeida Theatre are couple example of production houses whose plays often move to the West End. Completing the challenge was quite satisfying and liberating at the same time; now I have wider pool of shows to choose from without the limiting factor, “West End”. No wonder my first choice was the National, another powerhouse for West End movers and the frontrunner for modernity.
National Theatre (the National as often called) opened in 1976, though the company was founded much earlier and was based at the Old Vic from 1963 to 1976. The National houses three separate theatres: Olivier, Lyttelton, and Dorfman. The theatre presents classic dramas, including Shakespeare, as well as international classic pieces, and new plays written by contemporary playwrights.
William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra tells the story of the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, and one of the triumvirs of the Roman Republic, Mark Antony. The play starts with Mark Antony enjoying time in Alexandria with his lover, Cleopatra, when he is called back to Rome to join forces with other triumvirs, Octavius and Lepidus, to fight the pirates of the Mediterranean. The triumvirs, mostly due to Antony’s wit, make peace with the pirates and resolve the conflict. But Octavius goes against Antony’s will and wages war against the pirates. Antony, furious at Octavius’ provocative actions, returns to Alexandria and crowns Cleopatra and himself as rulers of Egypt and the eastern third of the Roman Republic, and prepares to fight against Octavius. Antony is defeated in the battle, first at sea and later on land. Desperate with the defeat and blinded by the grief, Antony convinces himself that even Cleopatra is a traitor and commits a suicide. Cleopatra, grieved by Antony’s death and the fall of her kingdom lets a snake give her a deathly bite.
National Theatre production was directed by Simon Godwin.
Director: Simon Godwin
Producer: National Theatre
Casting: Alastair Coomer
Bought my ticket from the National Theatre website. £69 for the middles seat in the stalls. Clearly, I have not started benefiting from Off-West End prices, but the seat was worth it with good view on the stage.
Running time is 3 hours 30 minutes.
The Theatre Rat