facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

09 April 1987: Hopkins and Dench play ancient lovers

First Published 23 April 2008, Last Updated 23 April 2008

Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony And Cleopatra has spawned numerous famous pairings in the title roles. On 9 April 1987 it was the turn of Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench, who played the lovers in Peter Hall’s production at the National Theatre.

In telling the story of the romance between Roman triumvir Mark Antony and Queen of Egypt Cleopatra, Shakespeare created two complex and demanding characters who have been depicted on stage by some of the greatest actors of the 20th century, including Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (1951), Michael Redgrave and Peggy Ashcroft (1953), and Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter (2006).

The performances of Hopkins and Dench in 1987 are considered among the finest and received much critical acclaim. Dench, whose extremely varied career has seen her play such eclectic roles as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Lady Macbeth and a vulnerable bar owner in Absolute Hell, was not, at the time, seen as the obvious choice to play the sexually-alluring, game-playing Cleopatra, but she pulled it off to Laurence Olivier Award-winning effect, picking up her fourth Actress of the Year statuette for the role in the 1987 ceremony.

Reviewing the production in The Guardian, Michael Billington wrote: “It is not only the most intelligently-spoken Shakespeare I have heard in years but it also contains two performances from Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins that, in their comprehensive humanity, rank with Ashcroft and Redgrave at Stratford many moons ago.”

The legacy of their performances was such that in 2006, commenting on the Stewart/Walter pairing in an RSC production at London’s Novello, Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph wrote: “You have to go back to Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench at the National Theatre 20 years ago to find the equals of Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter in the title roles.”

Though he began on stage, in Laurence Olivier’s company at the National, Welsh actor Hopkins’s career gravitated towards film and television. Four years after playing Antony alongside Dench, Hopkins scored an international success playing serial killer Hannibal Lector in the film The Silence Of The Lambs, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1992. Since then his many films have included Howard’s End, The Remains Of The Day, Shadowlands, The Mask Of Zorro, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Nixon and Beowulf.

Dench’s post-1987 career has also included many films. As M in the Pierce Brosnan-led James Bond films she reached a wider audience, and her mass appeal in the US was consolidated by her Oscar win for Shakespeare In Love and her BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated turn as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown in 1997. Other screen work includes films Ladies In Lavender, Tea With Mussolini, Mrs Henderson Presents, Notes On A Scandal and the recent BBC costume drama Cranford. On stage, Dame Judi is now a seven-times Laurence Olivier Award-winner (including a Special Award in 2004) whose recent West End credits include Breath Of Life and Hay Fever. She returns to the stage in 2009 in Madame De Sade at the Wyndham’s, directed by Michael Grandage, as part of the Donmar West End season.



Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.