Antony and Cleopatra Video Capsule Review: 2014, Stratford Festival

It’s Friday, and that’s movie release day, and so today, I’m going to start for Antony and Cleopatra a six-week Friday Film Focus (unlike our last play Macbeth, which had beaucoup de cinema, our pseudo-sequel to Julius Caesar has, well, let’s just say some slim pickin’s). Each week, I’ll present a capsule review of an A&C video, with full reviews coming in a future podcast.

In 2014, the Stratford Festival in Canada, as part of its “On Demand” series, captured on film their production of Antony and Cleopatra, directed for the stage by Gary Griffin, and for film by Barry Avrich, with Geralnt Wyn Davies as Antony, Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra, and Tom McCamus as Enobarbus.

Stratford Festival Antony and Cleopatra 2014 (courtesy Stratford Festival)
Stratford Festival Antony and Cleopatra 2014 (courtesy Stratford Festival)

I think the most striking thing about this production is its brevity. It runs an incredibly tight two hours. I’m not so sure this is a good thing. We get much of the soldier-centric scenes cut, including commentary on the action. I think at least some of these speeches are necessary to convey what the “regular” men think of the actions by their “greaters.” And if you’re looking to find the most famous speech of the play–Enobarbus’ barge speech–it’s gone as part of those “soldier” cuts (unless it was there and I somehow missed it).

In looking back at the play (and coverage of the original stage production), I’m wondering if these cuts are in the film itself, and not the original staged version. There’s quite a bit of “fades-to-black” here and this could explain many of the cuts (and the seeming lack of an intermission). According to a couple of stage reviews I found, there is mention of both the Enobarbus “barge” speech and a 2 hour and 50 minute running time. Did the film lop off nearly a third of the play? If so, it makes for a fast moving piece, but one missing much of the commentary and politics of the full text.

Regardless of the cuts, Davies makes for a solid Antony, and McIntosh’s is a more comic take on Cleopatra. These performances work together–especially in their Act One, Scene Three argument–but neither is definitive.

[NOTE: I watched this on YouTube. On Amazon, the rentable version is a full half-hour longer than the YouTube version. Was the YouTube version edited down from that version? I don’t know. So, take this for what you will…maybe you want to consider this before choosing which version–free vs. rental–you want to watch.]

More reviews are coming soon…

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