Shakespeare's tragic Cleopatra more than just a pretty face

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 10:53 15/02/2013
Antony and Cleopatra
ANTONY KITCHENER

Ancient love: Carmel MgGlone, Cleopatra, and Alistair Browing, Antony, in this year's Summer Shakespeare play.

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The stage at The Dell will this month be transformed into Ancient Egypt and Rome in a full-scale production of the ill-fated love affair between Antony and Cleopatra.

The 30th Summer Shakespeare production starts at the Botanic Gardens on Friday, February 15, at 7pm.

Carmel McGlone, who plays Cleopatra, said Cleopatra was the strongest female character in Shakespeare's plays.

"It's an extraordinary play. Cleopatra is the best role Shakespeare wrote for a woman," she said.

"She is also the only queen in Shakespeare who is on the throne and in power.

"All the others are demented, dethroned or the wives of kings.

"I would say that she is the most interesting female role because of that."

McGlone said Cleopatra was also more than a pretty face.

"Hollywood has wrecked her a little bit, so when people think Cleopatra, they think sex bomb, really good looking and manipulative," she said.

"But when I read the play I go, 'That is not who she is. She is so much more than that.'

"History has reduced her somewhat."

She said she hoped to portray the person who was described in the play as a woman of infinite variety.

"That shows some of her appeal. She is the ruler of Egypt at an interesting time in history," she said.

"The country was moving from the old world to the new.

"The Hollywood version is all about the love story, but it was so much more than that.

"She's a great politician and a great strategist of war.

"Antony describes her as a queen 'whom everything becomes - to chide, to laugh, to weep, whose every passion fully strives to make itself, in thee, fair and admired'.

"That line really demands that she is taken seriously."

Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy about the relationship between Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt, and Mark Antony, one of the three leaders of the Roman Republic.

It is thought to be set somewhere between 40BC and 30BC, from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's death by suicide.

The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow Roman leaders. Antony and Cleopatra, The Dell, Botanic Gardens, February 15 till March 2, 7pm, Sundays, 4pm. Wet weather updates will be posted on facebook.com/ summershakespearewellington.

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- The Wellingtonian

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