Forget ‘Waiting for Godot’, here’s ‘Waiting for Caesar’. Gareth Cadwallader’s new play has the last Pharaoh of Egypt killing time in Rome as she anticipates the arrival of her lover Julius Caesar. It’s a rendezvous he never makes.
The surprising fact that Cleopatra was actually in the Roman capital on the Ides of March, the day of Caesar’s brutal murder, has proved rich inspiration for Cadwallader. With ‘Cleopatra’, he adds to the long list of fictional interpretations of one of the most intriguing women in history.
Cadwallader’s Cleopatra, played with a jittery energy by Shelley Lang, sits among the more ridiculous portrayals of the queen. She’s a flirt, who uses her body to get her way: a spoilt goddess with no real understanding of politics. And yet, with Lang channelling more than a touch of Joanna Lumley in ‘Ab Fab’, she’s impossible to dislike. Idiotic and volatile, she provides a sensual, sexual and welcome contrast to the dull, democracy-obsessed, law-abiding Romans: Brutus, Mark Antony and Octavius, who all knock at her door looking for the absent head of state.
Mary Franklin’s production, one of the first in newly opened pub fringe theatre The Hope, is nicely pitched. The action is restricted to one room, but the staging keeps things varied. There are some issues with repetition, mainly in the humour, but the performances also suffer a little from predictability.
The problems don’t envelop the evening, though, and as the tension slowly builds, the play emerges as a lively, well-imagined piece of writing that will have you rooting for the fun bimbo, rather than the boring brawn and brains of Rome.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell