6th Dec, 2016

Cymbeline - RSC Stratford-on-Avon - review

Stratford Editorial 11th May, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THERE’S an awful lot going in Melly Still’s production of Shakespeare’s little loved late romance.

The rarely performed, convoluted and complex tale, has long been a source of irritation to many, but its very nature has always made it something of a sweet shop for directors.

Here the audience is presented with a dystopian Britain in search of identity, reflecting these days of EU debate, and once more proving that the Bard’s words continue to echo with resonance down the centuries.

The text in parts is delivered in Italian, French and Latin – the only problem being it’s almost impossible with a thrust stage to both read the surtitles beamed onto the backdrop while also concentrating on the actors. Possibly more a fault of the language-reluctant learning British.

That said, whether Still’s pro-stay production will have any sway at the ballot box next month is itself open to debate.

Still has also decided to play with genders, making Cybeline a Queen and her hubby the evil stepfather. There’s also a female heir in

Guideria, and punked up servant in Pisania. While it works fine enough, in truth the switches add little to proceedings.

Innogen however remains all girl – albeit one disguised as a page boy for half the play – and Bethan Culliane’s robust portrayal does much to drive this entertaining enough production forward, and prevent it from buckling under the weight of too many ideas – from a Roman dance scene which leaves one wondering if Eurovision has started early, to paper people cut-outs floating from above.

She’s supported by a solid cast who deliver some of Shakespeare’s finest verse without any frills or fuss.

Still’s production certainly has its pro and cons – rather like a certain topical debate. Cymbeline runs until October 15.

Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.