Antony and Cleopatra 1987
Dench, is better known of late for stocky, earthy parts: classic survivors such as Bertolt Brecht`s Mother Courage or the fraught, matronly suburbanite in Huge Whitemore`s “Pack of Lies.“ Literal stature is not her forte, and Dench lets out a knowing, self-deprecating chuckle when she asks of Antony`s new wife, Octavia, “Is she as tall as I?“
There`s nothing gracious, of course, about Cleopatra, and Dench aggressively stalks the stage coy and flirtatious in turn as she pursues the man of her dreams. Clasping her breasts in anticipation of “one more gaudy night,“ she bewails an end she expects is near. As her suicide approaches, we see her spirit ebb. One minute she is “fire and air,“ the next “marble constant,“ frozen by grief. Dench embodies each description, overcoming audience skeptics (Vanessa Redgrave is, on paper, a more obviously physical choice for the part) with the truth of her acting.
United Press International’s Gregory Jensen:
“Dench is a magnificent Cleopatra. Her Egyptian queen is too old to rely on sexual magnetism alone. Instead she captivates by unpredictability, through moods switched faster than eyelash flicks. Her darting charmer gradually slows and darkens as the Roman coils tighten, and her death is infinitely moving.”