Anguis (4 stars)

This article is from 2019


Be witness to a thrilling podcast interview with Cleopatra, the great pharaoh

Sheila Atim, winner of last year's Olivier Award for Best Actress in Girl from the North Country, makes her writing debut with Anguis, a nicely balanced and pleasingly detailed piece of writing that confirms her gift for theatre exists both behind the curtain and onstage.

In Anguis, podcast presenter and contemporary immunologist Kate Williams is interviewing today's special guest, the one-and-only Cleopatra, the great pharaoh.

Atim uses the fantasy interview scenario to address the differences between these two radically different females. They are both successful, but both define success differently. Where Cleopatra – 'Call me Cleo', she insists – relied on power and strength to rule, woke health professional Williams campaigns for education and opportunities for all.

The women's conversation quickly turns into a bitter fight about feminism and exploitation of power, as both of their pasts are laid increasingly bare on the interviewer's table.

Atim's thoughtful, fact-driven writing carries the narrative thrillingly and tensely forward, while at the same time Paksie Vernon nails Cleo's poised spikiness and Janet Kumah brilliantly captures Kate's emotional volatility and passion.

Perhaps the genius move, though, is incorporating happy-go-lucky radio producer David, a loveable Essex lad, who offers light relief and real laughs across a tense and revealing play about dark truths.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 26 Aug (not 12), 3pm, £12–£13 (£10–£11).


  • 4 stars

Avalon and BBC Arts Cleopatra's death by asp is a common myth, largely scientifically disproven. Set in a broadcast recording center, Anguis is an imagined conversation between the great pharaoh Cleopatra and a contemporary immunologist. Join us in the studio as we unpack Cleopatra's story, exploring alternatives to the…