The National – a Theatre for Everyone.

The National – a Theatre for Everyone.

Rufus Norris has stuck to his values and made the National Theatre a place of entertainment rather than elitism.   In spite of the jibes about cronyism (who doesn’t work better with their friends and partner around them) in three short years, he has brought about changes in the repertory that have made the National a place of real and diverse entertainment.   Mosquitoes, Everyman, My Country, The Threepenny Opera.   He has brought in productions that challenge audiences.   Follies directed by Dominic Cooke – the best production of the musical that I’ve seen.  When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other directed by Katie Mitchell.   Simon Godwin, an Associate Director, brought Anthony and Cleopatra into a new dimension.  Seemingly spontaneous, the whole of the movement of the production signalling ever present love and death and the unrelenting changes from youth to age, from victor to vanquished.   The verse was timeless and the beauty of Enobarbus’ speech
“For her own person,
It beggar’d all description; she did lie
In her pavilion, – cloth of gold tissue, –
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature;   “

blended into the whole as did Cleopatra’s

“His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm
Created the world:  his voice was propertied
As all the tuned sphere’s, and that to friends; ..”

Anthony’s voice work, played by Ralph Fiennes was truly wonderful, I suspect that was down to his personal voice coach.  So what if some of the accents were slightly wonky and some of the soldier’s work slightly hurried.  In the end it made for a wonderful ensemble production.  When Dame Judi Dench played Cleopatra last at the National opposite Sir Anthony Hopkin’s Anthony, the essence of the play was lost among the stars.

Sophie Okonedo as Cleopatra and Ralph Fiennes as Anthony