Anthony and Cleopatra at the Chichester Festival Theatre

WHETHER Cleopatra was in real life a sultry temptress, akin to the character of Samantha Jones of Sex In The City fame, we can never know.

Certainly Kim Cattrall, who played the sex siren in the popular TV and film series could have been forgiven for continuing in similar mode for her performance as the Egyptian queen in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Anthony and Cleopatra.

However, wisely, she avoids such a trap. Instead, Ms Cattrall’s queen comes across as a desperate, almost nervous lovestruck, perhaps even lonely, certainly vulnerable woman in a man’s world.

The object of her desperate desire, Anthony, played here by Michael Pennington, certainly doesn’t seem to deserve her. He appears almost irritated by her affections. And throughout the first act of Shakespeare’s masterpiece it isn’t clear why the two are so besotted, such is the apparent lack of real passion between the pair.

But the second act brings its rewards for those looking for reasons why such powerful individuals found it impossible to draw apart, even when doom draws close.

Cattrall gives a marvellous performance as Cleopatra, a role she has enjoyed success with before. Pennington makes for a wild-haired, winesoaked Anthony, lost to hedonism and at odds with the image of the noble Roman.

Martin Hutson is incredible as Octavius Caesar, the pair’s nemesis. A study in controlled awkwardness, the future Emperor C a e s a r Au g u s t u s irritates wonderfully.

Janet Suzman’s direction of the long drawn-out saga is compelling, the staging simple, yet effective.

Breast-plated Roman warriors are matched with machine-gun toting SWAT teams.

At the heart of the saga is the ending of a dynasty and the fall of an empire: and the doom of two of the most famous lovers in history.

Runs until September 29.