Theatre Review: Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra – Sport for Jove: Bella Vista Farm (until 7th January 2017)

Antony and Cleopatra. Photo: Marnya Rothe. Courtesy Sport for Jove.

Sport for Jove’s Summer Shakespeare Season is in its eighth year and is impressing audiences once again, this time with their double bill – Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Designed to be viewed back-to-back, with some of the actors reprising their roles in the second play, politics, intrigue and murder abound.

Suzanne Pereira is exceptional as Julius Caesar, convey power, ambition and narcissism as her people plot to overthrow her. It was refreshing to see a woman in the traditionally male-dominated role of Caesar, and Pereira’s stage presence is imposing, befitting a Roman hero.

Megan Drury is forceful and persuasive as Caius Cassius, Praetor of Rome. As she plots and schemes to overthrow Caesar, we are presented with another dominant woman who knows her own mind and is able to bend others to their will. A key player to fall prey to her persuasive tongue is Marcus Brutus, Praetor of Rome, played brilliantly by Damien Ryan. The audience feels for his character, who in essence is a good man, but even good men can be manipulated to perform terrible acts.

As the curtain closes on Julius Caesar and rises on Antony and Cleopatra, we see Octavius Caesar (Felicity McKay) in power, with the once great soldier Marcus Antonius (Christopher Stollery) drinking and fornicating in Egypt with Queen Cleopatra, played to perfection by Camilla Ah Kin. After the terribly serious tone of the previous play, it was refreshing to be able to laugh at the antics of Cleopatra and her ladies. Jealousies run high as Marcus Antonius is called back to Rome and persuaded to marry Caesar’s sister Octavia (Georgia Scott). The scene in which a poor messenger (Amy Kersey) must tell Cleopatra her love has married another is hilarious, incorporating physical comedy with perfect comedic timing.

I was thrilled to see the plays performed once again in front of the beautiful old farmhouse instead of the modern stage which had been erected on the site. Having Elizabeth Macarthur’s farm rise up behind the actors adds an element of theatrics that simply cannot be recreated.

I’m not going to lie, six hours of Shakespeare can get fairly intense, and there was a part of me that was cheering when Cleopatra finally shoved the snake to her breast and died, but as with all Sport for Jove productions, it was thoroughly entertaining. From the clever set design to the subtle modern inclusions into the traditional text, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra double bill is Sport for Jove at their Shakespearean best.

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Sport for Jove Summer Shakespeare Season runs until 7 January at Bella Vista Farm and from 14 – 29 January in Leura. Booking via http://www.sportforjove.com.au/