Tag Archives: Clive Wood

“Antony and Cleopatra” at Shakespeare’s Globe

Eve Best has made a triumphant return to Shakespeare’s Globe. Following her fine directorial debut in 2013, she now takes the lead in Antony and Cleopatra. This accessible production, directed by Jonathan Munby, tells Shakespeare’s tale of love and war with the utmost clarity.

A pirate queen, full of fight, with a wicked sense of humour, Best’s Cleopatra displays the character’s fabled “infinite variety” and knows how to play the crowd in all moods. She is joined by Clive Wood, who makes the perfect “old ruffian” Antony, giving a studied performance that’s crafted to fill you with unease – he’s both too much the politician and too passionate to trust, degenerating into little more than a bully.

The air of luxury Munby establishes makes for a slow start, and the production has moments that might be speedier. Much time, for example, is given to Phil Daniels’ Enobarbus, though it has to be admitted he gives a remarkably subtle performance. The battle scenes are handled efficiently, though, and transitions between scenes, with characters overlapping each other, create some intriguing resonances.

There’s some great use of music and the humour in the text is sustained throughout. Several smaller roles are given their due, creating a world that feels populous and convincing. Jolyon Coy stands out as the “boy Caesar” and Sirine Saba works hard as Cleopatra’s attendant. The finale is testament to how captivating Best’s performance becomes, particularly in her poignant appeals to the women in the audience.

All this for a production dogged by troubles. Christopher Saul is a last-minute substitute who bravely performed with the text last night. Wood has been ill, missing several preview shows, while Best sports a bandaged ankle. But I couldn’t see their performances marred in the slightest. Let’s be thankful for the old adage that the show must go on. This is an evening full of affirmation for the theatre generally and this cast in particular, with a show that, like its star, is “a wonderful piece of work”.

Until 24 August 2014


Photo by Manuel Harlan

Written 30 May 2014 for The London Magazine

“The Dumb Waiter” at The Print Room

Time is of the essence Harold Pinter’s play The Dumb Waiter. The one-act work, which sees two hit men waiting for their instructions, plays with timescales and sets out to disorientate the audience. Protagonists Gus and Ben, your average working killers, complain about their employment conditions and are exposed to an increasingly bizarre series of events – including the eponymous serving hatch of the play’s title, from which strange and threatening orders emerge. The tension mounts, hilarity ensues and in true Pinter style, we’re exposed to raw emotion and left a little puzzled.

The director Jamie Glover, primarily known as an actor, has worked with the talented duo Joe Armstrong and Clive Wood to create superbly detailed performances. Wood plays Ben, the “senior partner”, who bristles with tension. Distracting banalities from the newspaper and professed confidence in the “organisation” they work for can’t hide his anxiety. Wood’s red-ringed eyes reveal he is close to the edge and one scene of his starring into the distance, collapsed in on himself, is extremely powerful. His younger colleague, Gus, is the one willing to ask questions – and there are lots of them. Armstrong gives a winning performance, combining a endearingly puzzled look with great comic skill when the couple squabble over semantics. His character might be a cog in a machine, but one with some spirit and the will examine the way in which they are being manipulated.

Maybe it was the delightfully-crafted pumpkins lining the entrance to the theatre, or more likely Peter Rice’s effective sound design to the show which makes the dumb waiter sound like a supernatural guillotine – but this is a scary night. The men’s boredom escalates into fear instantly but the comedy in the play suffers. Glover opts for menace – a valid decision – but I enjoy Pinter’s dark comedy and felt it lacking here. The absurdities of the situation raise laughs but the general air is one of brooding. It adds to the intensity though and the show becomes incredibly swift; there’s time for dinner afterwards and this play leaves you plenty to discuss.

Until 23 November 2013


Written 29 October 2013 for The London Magazine

“Filumena” at the Almeida Theatre

Both the Almeida and its artistic director Michael Attenborough have well-deserved reputations for European classics. Their latest offering, Filumena, is a quality affair that both entertains and highlights the voice of its author, Eduardo De Filippo. In a tight, sprightly new version by Tanya Ronder, the show sparkles with wit and preserves an unusual edge. Filumena, a retired prostitute and the ultimate tart with a heart, plots and plans marriage with her long time partner Domenico in order to secure a future for her illegitimate sons. And what could be a cliché is enriched by the text and the direction to contain thrilling elements of the will-they-won’t-they kind and a moral questioning that runs through to its satisfyingly sweet end.

Clive Wood plays Domenico, an ageing lothario with a touch of Tony Soprano and a patronym Filumena fancies for herself. We shouldn’t like him but we do. Part of the appeal is his relationship with Filumena. Wood does a fantastic show of both frustration and fidelity. Because of his bullying tactics, it’s great to see him taunted, yet the dilemmas Filumena forces upon him make him much more than just a stereotype. As Filumena chillingly invites him to “laugh while you still can, because soon you won’t remember how,” his machismo mask slips just long enough for us to see his complexity – treading this fine line is a marvellous achievement from Wood.

Wood has a worthy sparring partner. Samantha Spiro brings alive any production she stars in and in Filumena she excels yet again. Formidable and frightening, she’s a shrew who refuses to be tamed and yet conveys a sense of vulnerability, presenting her character’s tumultuous, potentially hackneyed journey in a way that feels real. It’s not just funny, it’s also engaging, as we band behind Filumena praying she gets her way. Attenborough’s pacing is essential here, giving us time to catch our breath and think. But never long enough to fall out of love with Filumena. Domenico knows he is with someone special but that he has to take care. “Anyone who has anything to do with you needs to be wide awake,” he says. Given Spiro’s magnificent performance, it’s true that you won’t want to take your eyes off the stage.

Until 12 May 2012


Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Written 24 March 2012 for The London Magazine