Glenda, Queen of Surbiton-on-Nile

Antony and Cleopatra: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

The only trick that Peter Brook brings back to The Royal Shakespeare Company - where he first made his name as director - is that he has no tricks up his sleeve after his long exile.

This is Antony and Cleopatra played as straight and as clear as you are likely to see.

It has long been my view that the greatness of a director can be measured by his invisibility, and Brook fulfils this dictum.

He relies whole-heartedly on the text to tell the story, setting his bare stage with nothing more imposing than a frosted glass contruction which resembles a blow-up of a bus shelter.

The play and the acting of it are everything. In Glenda Jackson we have a modern crop-haired, kaftaned Cleopatra who speaks the verse magnificently. She is all majesty one moment; all woman the next.

Alan Howard and Glenda Jackson


She might even succeed in disproving Kenneth Tynan's theory that no English actors can play this part, were it not for her walk, which unfortunately has the suburban waddle of a housewife rushing to the supermarket before it closes.

Her two-woman court is also a trifle Suburbiton for the old Serpent of the Nile, come to think of it.

Alan Howard's Antony may not be the grizzled old warrior we are used to, yet he is a man of action in his prime and the war he loses is the one he fights most bitterly; against his own passions.

I was puzzled by Jonathan Pryce's rather fey and prissy Caesar, but these are quibbles in a thrilling exposition of the play which for once has nothing to do with cosmetics, camp wigs, or faked-up splendours of ancient Egypt.

Jack Tinker

Daily Mail, 12.10.1978.