I was really sorry to hear that Kathryn Hunter had resigned from the RSC midway through the Roundhouse run. I realise that she had not had some good reviews with some reviews being really cutting, but I had thought that her work with the current RSC ensemble had been really thought provoking. Her two performances as the Fool and as Cleopatra stayed with me and made me think much more about the text in ways I hadn’t before seeing the productions. After seeing the production of Antony and Cleopatra for the first time, I wasn’t sure how to respond to the production, but I think that was what I really liked about it in the end was that sense of not being able to draw conclusions and continuing to think about what I’d seen. What was really great about Hunter’s portrayal of Cleopatra was that she played against type and this worked really well for me. What came across in Hunter’s portrayal was the way she brought out Cleopatra’s manipulative streak, her power as a female ruler and played on the way she constantly changed her mind. As Lear’s Fool, she brought out the childlike side of the character to great effect. It felt like I was watching the child staying a Lear’s side as long as possible, and in despair seeing the person s/he loved breaking down.
When I saw King Lear at the Roundhouse a week ago, I thought that Sophie Russell did a decent job as the Fool, but just doesn’t have that ability to suddenly appear and take over the stage in the way that Hunter did. I am looking forward to seeing Katy Stephens as Cleopatra again, after seeing her in Newcastle having to go on stage at very short notice, and it will be interesting to see how she makes the part her own after having the chance to rehearse.