Antony & Cleopatra: A Theatre First
1991. A seismic moment in theatre history.
In the wings, a small figure with a powerful presence waits to go on stage.
The lights pick up every glint in her costume, a flash here and there illuminates the darkness backstage.
A deep breath ...
The first Black Cleopatra steps on to the British stage.
Enter Doña Croll in Talawa Theatre Company's historic all Black production of William Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra, directed by Yvonne Brewster.
The production, and that casting decision especially, created a seismic shift because from that moment casting Cleopatra as white became questionable. History was made, acknowledged and celebrated.
In a Guardian interview with Dea Birkett, Doña Croll said:
White actresses play her as a sexy queen. I play the politics and power. Any woman that runs a country and turns it around is not a bimbo. She is somewhere between Maya Angelou and Tina Turner ... the fable of the white Cleopatra is just another way of bleaching out history, cutting the nose of the Sphinx.
Alastair Macaulay, Financial Times
Funny, sensual, powerful Cleopatra ... she speaks in liquid phrases, she hold out lines to the light with relish ... and her temper is splendid. She catches the untramelled force that makes Cleopatra ...
PRINCIPAL CAST: Doña Croll (Cleopatra); Jeffery Kissoon (Antony); Renu Setna (Enobarbus); Ben Thomas (Octavius Caesar).
This production played in Liverpool from April - May 1991 before transferring to London where it played at the Bloomsbury Theatre from 16 May - 15 June 1991.