Gender-bent Antony and Cleopatra is a delightful blend of camp and passion
By William Shakespeare. Directed by Cameron Mackenzie. A Studio 58 production. At Studio 58, Langara College, on Saturday, September 28. Continues until October 13
What happens when you stage the tragedy of a Roman general and an Egyptian queen, and throw away all the rules on who should portray them? Well, at Langara’s Studio 58, magic happens.
This gender-bent Antony and Cleopatra is absolutely delicious, in both concept and execution.
Director Cameron Mackenzie has dug to the heart of the implied core tenets of masculinity and femininity in Shakespeare’s script, and has brought those values to the surface so the show can smash them to pieces.
Placing one of Shakespeare’s butchest heroes and one of his sexiest heroines in the hands of the opposite gender, along with Julius Caesar and most of their armies, lets the actors revel in the artifice of performing that gender. The mesh of that artifice with their characters’ genuine emotion is truly a joy to watch.
As Antony, Ivy Charles is loud, bombastic, and commanding—she’s larger than life, dangerous in Antony’s temper and his passion. Dylan Floyde’s Cleopatra is sensual and devious, equal parts sassy drag queen and mysterious femme fatale. Each of them has a lot of fun putting on the airs of his or her performed gender, but all the same, there’s something so honest about the life they put into the characters. Their chemistry is right on the money, their bad romance thriving on the perfect mix of affection and spite. And still, their end is deeply, heartbreakingly tragic—helped by Charles and Floyde acting up a storm in Antony’s death scene, in particular.
Emma Ross, as Julius Caesar, is also a standout in this production. She’s utterly venomous in her delivery as the callous, cunning strategist—which is, as it turns out, deeply satisfying coming from a female actor. All three main actors are supported by a great ensemble—every soldier, senator, and servant is bringing his or her A-game, and making the show feel so full of life.
The entire production is passionate, down to every detail. It pulls apart the affectations of gender, love, and war in brilliant ways, and has a fantastic time doing it. As for the audience, it will have a fantastic time witnessing it.