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Cymbeline Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon ?????..... This production of the early romance play where Cymbeline, the queen of Britain, is fighting off a Roman invasion, is set in a futuristic looking Britain.

A place where trees have been replaced by concrete, resources are running out and characters wear upcycled clothing made out of scraps of fabric.

This is meant to be a broken Britain fight-ting for its identity and the programme does much to try and shoe-horn in a relevance to the Brexit campaign.

But I didn't really get much of that from the play itself.

It begins with the meeting of an emotional Innogen, the daughter of Cymbeline, who has secretly married her lover Posthumus only to see him banished as her mother would rather she marry the Duke's son Cloten.

Posthumus heads to Rome, to a rather glitzy nightclub where he finds the greasy looking Italian Iachimo. Here they make a bet, where Iachimo wagers he will seduce the innocent Innogen.

That plan fails but he still does enough to convince Posthumus that his true love has not been faithful.

From then on, there is the usual cross dressing confusion - as Innogen dresses as a man to find Posthumus. Along the way she comes across two lovable rogues (who later are revealed as her long lost siblings) hiding out in the woods and led by banished lord Belarius.

There is plenty of fighting and funny bits too. When twin Guideria (beautifully played by Natalie Simpson) delivered the head of Cloten - so realistic it made me feel slightly queasy - Belarus says in a rather deadpan tone "What have thou done".

Bethan Cullinane is delightful as the young Innogen but Hiran Abeysekera was less convincing as Posthumus and at times inaudible.

Gillian Bevan is a fiesty Cymbeline, storming around in UGG boots and combat trousers to rally her troops to fight the Romans. On the whole the cast delivered a good performance but there were annoying parts to this production, directed by Melly Still.

I am not sure the decision to have the cast speak in Italian and Latin - with surtitles - added anything to the play. And the Dad's Army style maps projected onto the wall and a rather odd moment when paper cut outs of people fell from the ceiling was just distracting.

Unfortunately this is one production that did not move me one bit. That is not to say it wasn't good. It just wasn't great either.

Sarah Probert Rocky Horror Show Malvern Festival Theatres ..... Malvern Festival Theatres had a time in the 1930s (before it became plural) when it was just Malvern Festival Theatre.

Great names once strode through its foyers and spoke on its perfect stage, names such as Errol Flynn, Greer Garson, Jessica Tandy, Stewart Granger and Cedric Hardwicke. George Bernard Shaw came to Malvern to supervise his plays, Sir Edward Elgar visited here along with Sir Barry Jackson, who founded Birmingham Repertory Theatre, who brought his productions to Malvern before taking them on to London.

What this company of elegant ghosts would have made of the audience who turned up for the Rocky Horror Show, I dread to think.

Down the staircase and into the bar areas came men in drag - fat men, thin men and one serenely comfortable man in his fifties with the best legs I have seen for years, totally comfortable in superbly elegant high heels.

The women matched the men - women in sparkling tail coats and glitter toppers as Magenta or Columbia or one of the Phantoms. It was a fancy dress celebration of a special theatre rite and created a marvellous atmosphere and was a delightful ex-xtension to the show.

Erroll Flynn would have loved it, and Stewart Granger would have sniffed first then laughed afterwards.

Shaw might have criticised it for being a bit patchy, but Sir Barry, who was gay, might have fallen for Rocky's perfect body and had a momentary idea about bringing the show into Birmingham (and then blushed at the thought).

But rest assured, this touring production of Richard O'Brien's classic is a big, noisy OTT humdinger of a show which never loses its sense of fun and with a score which still makes you tingle.

The set in this current tour is a tad thin and mostly lacking in atmosphere, using Goyaesque shades of darkness to cover up the lack of scenic values. When Frank-NFurter (the excellent, hugely-voiced Liam Tamne)makes his famous strutting highheeled entrance as the sweet transexual from Transylvaneeeahhh, he has had better sets through which to appear. Although in fairness it may all be down to reasons of economy.

Yet this terrific, hardworking, hard-singing cast more that make up for any scenic disappointments. They fire up the famous Time-Warp number until their sheer energy levels drew us all in and we danced for the hell of it, and their solo spots throughout the evening were splendid.

Ben Freeman's nerdy Brad, for example, was exactly right, Steve Punt's Narrator calmly batting back lewd remarks to the wickedly contributory younger audience and Dominic Andersen's superb Rocky was probably one of the best Rocks I have reviewed.

Christopher Luscombe directed.

Runs until Saturday, May 14.

Richard Edmonds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 12, 2016
Words:864
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