After murdering her brother, Cleopatra takes the throne of Egypt, causing chaos in the Country she rules. Her dominance is reinforced by the arrival of Caesar who falls for her charms. But when Caesar is murdered, she seduces second in command, Mark Anthony, to maintain her power, despite the fact that he is married. But Cleopatra falls for him and their love becomes increasingly intense, leading to tragedy.
Cleopatra is a show which is full of contrasts and opposites. The cast were in almost perfect synchronicity as they glided across the stage in a display of effortless grace; contrasting with the violent, dramatic and sexual imagery portrayed. The violence and drama were, in turn, counterbalanced by the sensual, erotic and sexual overtones and the themes of dominance, power and betrayal were at the opposite ends of the spectrum to the themes of love and passion.
The set was uncomplicated allowing for a practical dance space and utilised projected images on the whitewashed buildings to great effect, nowhere more evident than when the set is seen to secrete thick red blood during one particular scene. The striking use of colour provided for a visually intriguing use of contrasts between the white set and the richly coloured costumes. Using a simple colour scheme with the majority of the cast uniformly dressed during the scenes, the pillar box red uniforms of the Roman soldiers and the deep burgundy flowing gowns of the Senate looked stunning against the pale background and enhanced the dramatic impact of the piece.
The original score was written by Claude-Michal Schónberg, who is perhaps best known as one of the composers of Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, was very much befitting the style and themes of the piece, being heavily influenced by the traditional sounds of the Middle East. The evocative music was a mixture of sensual, dramatic, regal and ceremonial and was strikingly played by the live orchestra. The score, set, imagery and lighting as a whole evoked an atmosphere of the heat, dust and humidity of the Middle East
The cast were all faultless and performed with intensity and passion. The costumes, which proudly displayed the muscular torsos of the male cast added to the sexually charged and testosterone fuelled atmosphere of the piece which, in turn, contrasted with the femininity of the lead character and the handmaidens. Martha Leebolt excelled as Cleopatra, showing the character’s vindictiveness and vulnerabilities. Javier Torres provided a strong male lead as Mark Anthony and Kenneth Tindall displayed serpentine-like qualities as Wadjet, the God and protector of the Pharaohs.
Overall, Cleopatra was a very enjoyable piece, allowing for an engrossing and visually stimulating exploration of violence and eroticism.
Northern Ballet’s Cleopatra is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 29th March 2014. For tickets and information visit http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/cleopatra-14 or visit Northern Ballet’s website for details of this; and their upcoming productions at http://northernballet.com/?q=northern-ballet-home .
Please note that the show contains some brief male nudity.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.