So when I heard that Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR) was presenting it in June, and the setting of the story was going to be transported to the era of the Fur Trade, a lot of questions ran through my head.
“What does Ancient Egypt have to do with the Fur Trade? Did Cleopatra really wear her hair in all those braids? Will I ever stop confusing Marc Anthony the singer with Mark Antony the fictional character?”
SIR has done a wonderful job of telling a very difficult story. The scope of Antony & Cleopatra is expansive, swiftly jumping back and forth from Ancient Rome to Ancient Egypt at an increasingly frantic pace, and it features a dizzying array of characters that are impossible to keep track of.
Sarah Kitz is clever and capable in her direction, bringing to life a complicated text and making it seem effortless. The pacing is excellent and the transitions are about as well-timed and well-executed as they could possibly be.
The costumes, designed by Brenda McLean, utilize colour effectively to give the audience a clear understanding of who is who.
The performers are, as always, exceptional in their handling of Shakespeare’s text. In particular, PJ Prudat is an outstanding Cleopatra, a thrilling discovery for Winnipeg audiences, many of whom rarely have the opportunity to see Indigenous performers on stage.
By far the most intriguing element of this production is how it is set on the Canadian plains during the Fur Trade. This concept immediately taps into our collective consciousness as an audience, as a city, and as a nation.
And with Winnipeg having been recently named ‘the most racist city in Canada’, this production is timely, relevant, challenging, and uniquely Canadian.
Now that the troupe is back at the Ruins after a temporary hiatus, it would be lovely to see them continue to work towards utilizing the emotion of the space in a more organic way – the moments of this production that really stand out are the ones that are in perfect harmony with their environment, such as Antony’s entrance via canoe from the river, while the ones that seem like they could happen anywhere have a tendency to fade from memory.
When their design elements catch up with their strength in text and performance, SIR’s productions are really going to skyrocket to the next level.
This is complicated little play with an epic scope and a fantastic female heroine. I think the world is ready to see more of it. I know I am.
Antony & Cleopatra runs until June 27th at the Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park. Tickets are available online or at the Prairie Theatre Exchange box office at 204-942-5483.