‘Cymbeline’ must be known as the ‘Shakespeare play that got away’. Sadly, it is rarely presented, most community and professional theatres preferring to go for the safer, crowd pulling plays that we all know, and yet it is very funny.

This melodrama can be seen at 7.30 pm on Friday, 31st October and Saturday, 1st November  The production is being held at the Nexus Theatre (near car park 3), Murdoch University. Tickets are a mere $10 each.

The set is a light coloured stage, made to look like a beach. At the side are the two musicians. To the rear, a muslin cyc and a simple, but effective, palace set. (Designer Allison Bell)

      The narrator (Cat Perez) who walks about the play invisibly welcomes us in song to the theatre. The melodic chorus (Gabriele Colli, Bella Doyle and Elizabeth Wharton) pop up throughout the play, with light relief in the form of hilarious verse (written by Sarah Courtis) and a dance (choreographed by Ellin Sears).

       Cymbeline, the loved and respected King of Britain (Philip Hutton), has a daughter, the wise and beautiful, Princess Imogen (Harriet Fettis). His evil second Queen (Charlotte Westrip) has married the King solely to ease the way for her egotistical and inept son, Cloten (James Hynson) from a previous marriage, to wed the Princess.

      Cymbeline is keen to see his daughter marry his stepson, but finds that Imogen has secretly married an orphan, Posthumus Leonatus (Leigh Fitzpatrick) that Cymbeline has raised from a child. The King is furious and banishes this commoner by birth to Rome.

      In Rome, accompanied by his servant Philario (Xarna Rappold), Posthumus meets an Italian conman, Iachimo (Scott McArdle) who bets him that he can seduce the Princess. However, when Iachimo discovers that she is faithful to her husband he sets out to trick Posthumus by getting private details of the Princess’s chamber and her body blemishes. When Posthumus believes that he has lost the bet, he orders his servant, Pisanio (Jade Galambosi) to kill Imogen.

      When Pisanio learns what really happened, she advises the Princess to disguise herself as a pageboy, Fidele, and flee. On her journey to Milford Haven, Imogen meets a shepherd, Morgan, his two sons, Guiderius (Nik Pinnock) and the younger sibling Arviragus (Shannon Rogers) living in a cave. The boys are her royal brothers, who were stolen twenty years earlier by the unjustly banished nobleman, Belarius (Sarsi Elsberry), and who is now living his life as Morgan the shepherd.

      Dressed in Posthumus’ clothes, Cloten follows Imogen determined to kill her, thus clearing the way for his eventual ascent to the throne. In a fight, Cloten is killed by Guiderius.  Feeling ill, and thinking a potion the queen has given her is medicinal, Imogen drinks the drug. The Queen however, believes that the drug she got from her doctor, Cornelius (Cassee Lazic) is actually a poison. Belarius and his sons find Imogen motionless and think she is dead.

      Meanwhile, in the palace, the Roman ambassador to Britain, Caius Lucius (Emily David) on the advice of the soothsayer (Rayelene Chin) declares war on Britain. Caius becomes the general of the Roman invasion force.  Posthumus is captured, and is placed in jail under the supervision of an idiot jailer (Christian Blackburn).

 Can Posthumus escape prison, what will happen to the shepherd’s boys, will Imogen really be poisoned?

Throughout the play, composer Nick Choo on piano and harpsichord, and his accompanying clarinettist, Hailey Vantil, provided a soft – perfect level – delightful musical soundscape.

The director, Jenny de Reuck and her associate director, Melissa Merchant have skilfully turned, what could have been a very ordinary, semi-funny play, into a memorable piece. They have wrung every morsel of humour from the play, and with Sarah Courtis’ lyrics, given a real sparkle to every scene.

The cast, even those with minor roles, really got into the mood of the play, by having quirky mannerisms and expressions. The play storylines had many complex twists, so having diction that was clear and beautifully paced was essential to the comprehension. Perfect.

Harriet Fettis, James Hynson and Scott McArdle gave performances that were amazing. Cat Perez was stunning as the narrator – another talent to watch for in the future.

There were a couple of good fight sequences choreographed by Uzi Khan, one of which brought forth a few intended laughs.

The costumes were colourful and well-tailored (Sophie Braham). The lighting ranged from a bloody battle scene, to a creepy ghost sequence (lighting design Nick Morant), with the quality sound completing the mood (sound design Amelia Dee).

Production supervisor, John King, had a very capable team that was managed by Thomas Dimmick. The crew of Laurie Mcainsh, Samantha Larke, Aaron Blackburn and Jessica Patrick ensured that the entrances, exits and scene changes were imperceptibly slick.

First time I have seen this play, but certainly an admirable production. Many congratulations.