The Cleopatras Episode 1

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The Cleopatras was intended to be the I, Claudius of the 80s. 'The Cleopatras' was a far cry from the costume dramas that audiences at that time were used to. Sets appeared to float and they did not create a 'real' horizon beyond or a 'convincing' sky above. Authenticity was sought however. Actors playing nobles had their heads shaved, including some of the female characters. Also, true to the custom of the time, the Egyptian palace's retinue of handmaidens were bare-chested. People at the court were painted different colours according to status, and many of them had decorative stencils made round their collarbones and on the backs of their feet. At the centre of all this was 31-year old actress Michelle Newland who played the final Cleopatra to whom the story is told in flash-back. Newland also played the last Cleopatra's great-grandmother. Six other actresses played Cleo's, but only one, Amanda Boxer went so far as to shave her head. Richard Griffiths played the aptly named 'Pot Belly' among whose catalogue of misdeeds were the murder of his sister's son, marriage to that sister and the subsequent dismemberment of the son they had together. "The Cleopatras," remarked Guy Slater, "didn't take itself seriously. It was a hard-hitting, unsentimental look at a tribe of fairly repellent people. . 145 BC - Pharoah Pot Belly takes control - but divorces his sister Cleopatra to marry her daughter Cleopatra, although he meant to marry her sister Cleopatra. A vengeful mother has the support of the mob - and persuades Rome she can be just as good a friend as Potbelly. In revenge Potbelly sends a very special present.