n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - On playing Cleopatra

Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



It is the richest, most varied, most misunderstood part that Shakespeare wrote, and it's quite impossible to get it all. An actress with imagination and a rich life experience has a decent chance of getting most of it. A mature male actor with years behind him of playing female roles? Let's say a good half of it. A boy actor with none of the above, bar a certain flair, a vague grasp of how 'the other half' thinks, a sharp eye, and who is lucky to have an elder sister (or better still a temperamental mother), might have had a fraction of a chance. Else he should just opt for saying the words loud and clear, introduce a pout here, a flounce there, and pray that the audience ekes out the rest of this superhuman human with their imaginations. Expert though those boys might have been, one does rather wonder: who exactly did Shakespeare have in mind when he wrote it? Some Dark Lady or other, I can't help thinking.

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