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Kim Comes Home as Cleo

The last time I saw Kim Cattrall laid out in wait for a man, she was stripped stark naked and dotted about with sushi. That was in the first Sex and the City film.

Last night in Liverpool, where she returned home to play Cleopatra in a fizzing production by Janet Suzman, opposite the strange and disintegrating Antony of Jeffery Kissoon, she kept her clothes on and sighed along the breeze.

This was an enchanting performance, and she was visibly moved by the enthusiastic reception of the Playhouse audience, who haven't had that much to cheer about on this stage since the opening night of Blood Brothers twenty-seven years ago -- and I was there for that one, too.

Kim first met Suzman in a revival of Brian Clark's Whose Life Is It Anyway?, when she was again laid out for the count, but this time on a hospital bed and severely constricted in physical movement; she was a quadroplegic.

She revealed her true stage quality, though, in David Mamet's Cryptogram at the Donmar Warehouse, playing this tantalising piece of mysterious emotional cat and mouse with an equally on song Eddie Izzard.

And then of course she channelled her vampish Samantha Jones through Noel Coward's catty, free-spirited Amanda in Private Lives, opposite a languid Matthew McFadyen in Richard Eyre's scintillating West End revival.

So her justly acclaimed Cleo -- by the Times and the Guardian, at least (though Michael Billington's review was scuppered by technical problems last night) -- comes as less of a surprise to the critics than it does to the Liverpool crowd.

Still, Cleopatra is an Everest of a role, and the play itself one of the most difficult in the canon to stage successfully; Cattrall and Suzman have thus scored a double whammy.

Although the Playhouse rolled out a red carpet into Williamson Square, this was a typically dressed down, no nonsense Liverpudlian affair. And the evening was all the better for that.

A smattering of London pros included Kevin Francis from Sue Angel, casting director Siobhan Bracke, sassy actressNatalie Walter, and writer and former FT critic Garry O'Connor (an old pal of Ian Hogg, who played a marvellous Enobarbus); O'Connor, in fact, had gone first of all to the Everyman by mistake, as had Paul Callan of the Express.

Only by throwing his considerable bulk in front of an astonished cab driver had Callan -- with O'Connor in breathless tow -- made the curtain on time. Sarah Hemming of the current FT was cosily and quietly ensconced with a friend; Liverpool's her home town, too, though she hadn't darkened the Playhouse doors since time immemorial.

So Kim won't be forgetting her "one other gaudy night" in a hurry -- and it's Cleopatra's birthday, too! -- and her performance is not just a perfect homecoming, but also a wonderful gift to the city she loves so much.

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