Antony And Cleopatra heads to the Spring Arts Centre

Rob Bartlett and Jess Cutting during rehearsals for Antony And Cleopatra  Picture: Sarah Standing (110875-8714)
Rob Bartlett and Jess Cutting during rehearsals for Antony And Cleopatra Picture: Sarah Standing (110875-8714)

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Former Southsea Shakespeare Actors chairman Rob Bartlett plays one title role and Jess Cutting the other – but who is directing the company’s Antony And Cleopatra next week? That question is not so easy to answer.

In a sense, everyone is – although Rob himself, assisted by James Rowland, heads the team.

James, who also plays Agrippa, explains that the process began traditionally, with Rob expressing an interest in directing the Shakespeare tragedy and proposing an initial vision encompassing set and costumes.

‘He asked me if I would be interested in assisting him,’ James says, ‘and we began to work on initial proposals.

‘We then played around with the idea of the entire cast both acting and being involved in the direction of the production.

‘We recognised an opportunity to do something a bit different from the normal director-led approach, and to challenge the cast to become involved in the look and feel of the play and to have part of the artistic input.’

The collaborative process began with a detailed examination of the play’s language, with every scene read through and then read again but in modern English before being rehearsed.

James explains: ‘It was important for Rob and me that everyone in the cast felt comfortable with the words. Antony And Cleopatra is a big text with wonderful language, but it is also complex and not as well-known as many other works.’

The teamwork continued through the blocking and movement-planning, James adds, with all cast members coming up with their own ideas and explaining the reasoning behind them.

‘What has been noticeable is the amount of discussion we have had in each rehearsal – the willingness to try it one way, then the wealth of suggestions that have followed.

‘We’ve been lucky with the cast. There’s a great depth of experience, with many actors who have been in the SSA for years, but also younger members who have studied acting/drama, all full of ideas.’

As well as Rob Bartlett and Jess Cutting (formerly Farnhill), the cast features Neil Gregory-Reader as Enobarbus, Terry Wiseman as Lepidus and Matt Gibbins as Octavian.

· Performances at the Spring Arts Centre, Havant, from Wednesday to Saturday (7.30pm). Tickets: (023) 9247 2700 or thespring.co.uk.