About the episode
Kim has played Cleopatra twice and now revisits the role and the real character of the great Queen of Egypt. She travels to Rome to see Antony’s city and to visit an exhibition devoted to his lover, Cleopatra.
She also meets with her “director” Dame Janet Suzman who herself made an iconic Cleopatra back at the RSC in 1973. Together they begin to uncover the truth behind this astonishing “middle-aged” love story. Once again there are parallels to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but Antony & Cleopatra are no lovesick juveniles, they are mature and heroic – and real – political figures. As such they were quite dangerous roles to write, let alone to play.
“2000 years ago, two of the most powerful people in the world met – and fell in love” - Kim Cattrall
Kim examines why Shakespeare wrote the play and uncovers that, sometimes, he was so slavishly following his source material, he might be accused of plagiarism. But Shakespeare was a great poet and we act out how he might have adapted his source line by line in one of the most famous speeches in the entire play.
During the film, Kim watches performances from many different “Cleopatras” and she meets other actors who have played the role – Harriet Walter, Vanessa Redgrave, Janet Suzman. – and joins actors rehearsing the role at the Globe. It is one of the greatest and longest of all Shakespeare’s female roles and must have required a “boy” actor of extraordinary skill to play the part. We look back at Antony’s first appearance in Shakespeare – as a young and powerful figure in the play Julius Caesar, while Richard Johnson and Patrick Stewart talk about what it is like to play Cleopatra’s now “ageing” lover Antony in the later play.
Finally, the inevitable conflict between the public and private lives of these two hugely important figures, was bound to end in conflict and tragedy. They seek to defeat or escape their rivals but they fail. As in Romeo and Juliet, they both die by their own hands.
In the new candlelit indoor theatre created by the Globe – a version of the indoor playhouse where we know this play was once performed, Kim watches as the actors play out Cleopatra’s last moments. She iconically commits suicide by forcing a poisonous snake to inflict its lethal embrace.
My Shakespeare starts on Monday 22nd September at 9pm on Sky Arts 1 HD.