Based on Celtic legends and a bit of borrowing from Boccacio's Decameron Shakespeare weaves a tale that is fraught with the fanciful and makes it a romantic tragi-comedy. It is a play that echoes earlier characters and themes of innocence and jealousy: Cymbeline, King of England, furious on discovering that his daughter Imogen has secretly married her childhood friend and first love, Posthumus, banishes the new groom, thus setting in motion a steadily darkening tale of betrayal, murder and mistaken identity.
This highly charged production has a unity rarely seen; with its simple set of plain drapes and a cracked floor design that works well as both pavé and dried mud, a superbly creative lighting plot, designed by Adrian Barnes, including shadow projections, and the addition of subtle sound effects, created by Andy Whyment, we are transported effortlessly from the English court to the Italian and to fields and caves in deepest Wales.
The costumes, best described as post-Jacobean hippy (knee breeches and sheepskin body warmers for the men), work well, whilst the use of red cloaks for the Roman army is simple and effective. Composer Tristan Parkes and the actors doubling as musicians are to be congratulated on two great interpretations of songs that become poignant and powerful comments, not fillers! And Danny McGrath’s choreography deserves a special mention, especially the battle scene near the end, where, with the addition of light and sound, we are treated to an energetic spectacle.
The acting by this young cast is confident and engaging, Luke McEwan shows both the strengths and weaknesses of the King whilst Catriona Cahill's Queen, dressed in black like an early incarnation of Cruella de Ville, is suitably calculating and cold. Rosie Sansom shows subtlety in the later scenes although her Imogen is a little too temper tantrum two-year-old rather than torrid teenager earlier on, which leads to a lack of show of any real love for Posthumus. However, Will Edelston's brilliantly conceived Cloten is a revelation, his superb timing and an intuitive appreciation of the text making this a performance and name to remember.