Antony And Cleopatra at the Spring Arts Centre in Havant

Rob Bartlett and Jess Cutting star as Antony and Cleopatra
Rob Bartlett and Jess Cutting star as Antony and Cleopatra
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Giving the entire cast a say in the direction of Shakespeare’s tragedy might have been a recipe for a hotch-potch, but in reality the Southsea Shakespeare Actors’ production is well-unified.

Above all it is clear in contrasting the cold, pragmatic political world of Octavian’s Rome with the hot, hedonistic luxuriating of Cleopatra’s Egyptian court.

The first is superbly realised in the clean-cut, quietly dangerous Octavian of Matt Gibbins, sneering so smugly before the battle he knows he will win.

The second is much more attractively realised in Rob Bartlett’s wilfully distracted Antony – a man who can also conjure up a mighty rage.

And Jess Cutting, although borderline young for the role of Cleopatra, shows herself to be a mature actor in the tactile, flighty, slinky, teasing way she holds men in her thrall.

Bartlett is also the nominal director, and it is to his and assistant James Rowland’s credit that he has knitted the company together so tightly while encouraging everyone to have an input.

He has also kept the action moving with impressive pace through the many changes of scene, and some sharp lighting effects heighten the poetry.

Terry Wiseman’s Lepidus is a delight both in sober bumbling and beatific drunkenness, and younger members of the cast to make a favourable impact are Ellen Giddey and Jennie Rawling as Cleopatra’s ladies, Adam Brown as her eunuch and Lloyd Bagley as a messenger.

Until Saturday.