Rawaa Barnes

The Writer Behind the New Young Cleopatra Book & Musical

Rawaa Barnes is a multi-award-winning British writer of Middle Eastern background. She is an author, director, songwriter, and educator whose first short film, The Bench, won five international prizes and received over a dozen nominations, including Best Script and Best Short Film at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival. She is also the composer for The Most Wanted Man in Sweden, a BBC Radio 4 drama, as well as the composer and singer for Danny Robbins’ stage version of the same name.

Fascinated with cultural diversity, languages, and spirituality, Rawaa Barnes frequently writes from an east-west perspective. Her debut novel, I Am Rumi, has been adapted for the theatre and is currently under development and expeted to premiere in London, then to tour abroad. Currently, Barnes is working on the screenplay for the film, Cleopatra the Musical, based on the book she wrote herself, and for which she has written the lyrics for 23 original songs.

She also recently completed the first book of a trilogy for children titled The Young Cleopatra that will be available for purchase this Christmas in a limited full colour edition. She has also created children’s clothing and jewellery based on the story.

Drawn to Middle Eastern culture in general, Barnes often incorporates their stories into her writing. For years, she has been fascinated by Egypt, particularly Queen Cleopatra, who was a formidable historical personality who continues to captivate people’s imaginations. Barnes felt compelled to turn her passion with the Egyptian queen into a musical depicting Cleopatra as an adolescent and follows her ascent to become Queen of Egypt. It is a blend of historical truth and fantasy, as no one knows much about Cleopatra’s youth. At its core, it is a relatable story about a young girl trying to sort things out, with which every teenage girl today can empathise. Barnes sought expert historical assistance on Cleopatra from Professor Duane Roller, a specialist on Ptolemaic history who also provided the preface to her book.

Some discussions have taken place between Barnes and two prominent West End producers about a Broadway production of Cleopatra the Musical, that would then tour in Egypt and the Arab region. “Can you imagine? It would be great to do this in Egypt and give everyone a chance to see it,” she exclaims, adding “I also have plans to take this to animation. I would love to ask for support from Egypt. It would be a huge badge of honour to get Egypt involved. It is, after all, where Cleopatra came from!”