Having seen 'All Roads Lead To Rome' I was left decidedly confused. Assured of all of the obvious, and stunning, overlaps between the themes of these two plays that a spliced effort of around an hour could just about work. At the end, it seems that the only obviously parallel was only the tragic death of both couples, a testament to Shakespeare's brilliance in character portrayal. Romeo and Marc Antony are not happy bedfellows (or though some of the lingering homoeroticism between Alex Bowles and his messenger might make you think otherwise). The flawed Romeo might obviously be compared more easily to the equally flawed Hamlet as a tragic 'hero' - a comparison that would be far more difficult to splice and stage.
I had never really understood the term 'binary' until I saw the emotional range of Caesar, as portrayed by Bowles. Matt Maltby (Romeo, Eros, Caesar), however, shone as he grappled with each character. That said is reaction to Juliet's death felt a little like a Dr.Who-style regeneration.
There are some nice touches by Director Will Maynard (my favourite being Romeo's deliberate doing up of trousers after an offstage sex scene). There is also plenty of awkward shirtlessness for the audience to get their teeth into.
All in all, this project was far too ambitious, and somewhat misguided. Some actors lacked the range to perform one character, let alone three, whilst others performed competently.
'Hell is to love no more' stated the programme. Whilst, performance of All Roads at the BT certainly isn't hell, it might well be purgatory.
George Murray , 30/10/08
It is no mean accomplishment to successfully merge the stories of Romeo and Juliet with Antony and Cleopatra. Director Will Maynard deserves real kudos for doing so in his most recent production: All Roads Lead to Rome, performed this week at the Burton Taylor.
As with most student endeavours there are some problems with this “new” script. These lie predominantly in too many scene changes, which are admittedly compensated for by some really super moments when the two stories do work as a duet. Sometimes, the concept of having the show performed by only four people is a mistake and it deflates some of the two plays’ most emotive moments – the loss of Iras and Charmian is a particular example. The show had also failed to take enough time over costume, particularly since it helped lessen the “power” impact of Antony as a soldier and Cleopatra as a monarch.
Matthew Maltby and Charlotte Norris as Romeo and Juliet have some excellent chemistry, particularly in the famous “balcony scene,” which is one of this show’s best bits. Norris pays homage to the traditional concept of Juliet and does it well; opposite her, Maltby is superb. Maltby, like Buddle’s Cleopatra, which I’ll come to, is a master of impulse – every urge and desire in the character is driven by his frantic energy and heightened emotions. In an achievement which would shame Leonardo DiCaprio, Maltby manages to make this most annoying of Shakespearean heroes attractive, seductive and sympathetic.
Emotionally, Antony and Cleopatra, played by Alex Bowles and Ellen Buddle, are as far-removed as possible from the lovelorn theatrics of Romeo and Juliet. Here are two immensely powerful people, commanding an empire that then stood at the centre of the known world. Bowles occasionally struggles with conveying the charisma and potent sexuality of Marc Antony, which is a pity because he does show the neurotic demise of a devastated narcissist with skill. Ellen Buddle, as Cleopatra, is mesmerising. By far the most difficult part to play, given her place in legend and the fact that she’s been played on-screen by the likes of Theda Bara, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor, Buddle manages to eschew the “femme fatale” elements and, like Maltby’s Romeo, is a hypersensitive driven by her urges. The best moment of the night for me was her disturbing emotional speech following Antony’s death, in which she veers from being a woman to being a queen.
By no means faultless, All Roads Lead to Rome is nonetheless enjoyable, competently executed and it has some beautiful moments. Will Maynard’s directing manages to overcome the cramped performance space and lazy aesthetics; and on-stage there are four very fine performances.
Catherine Maxtone-Parker , 29/10/08