Cate and Richard Roxburgh Lead Antony and Cleopatra Workshop, Eye Full Scale Production

Is Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA headed for a high-profile Australian production? In a two-day workshop for Sydney Theatre Company, the lead roles in the classic play were taken on by Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett, respectively, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the company is seeking to mount a full scale production.

Blanchett and Roxburgh no doubt have big shoes to fill: in London in 1998, those roles were inhabited by Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren; in the most recent Broadway production of the play – which opened as a London transfer in late 1951 – the characters were played by Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.

The production was expected to get a green light as Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, have decided to retire from the Sydney Theatre Company as co-artistic directors and will end their tenure in November 2013. The difficult role, the Herald said on January 19th, is likely to be her swan song with the company.

The workshop was directed by Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod. Blanchett is best known for her film roles, including ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’, a role which won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was met with critical acclaim for her performance in STC’s UNCLE VANYA, which she’s set to reprise at NY City Center this summer. Roxburgh was also featured in that production as the title character.

Antony and Cleopatra, one of Shakespeare’s great historical tragedies, follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra’s suicide.