Britain is in crisis. Alienated, insular and on the brink of disaster. Can it be saved?
An ineffectual Queen Cymbeline rules over a divided dystopian Britain. Consumed with grief at the death of two of her children, Cymbeline’s judgement is clouded. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart Posthumus in secret, an enraged Cymbeline banishes him.
Behind the throne, a power-hungry figure plots to seize power by murdering them both.
In exile Innogen's husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful to him and in an act of impulsive jealousy begins a scheme to have her murdered. Warned of the danger, Innogen runs away from court in disguise and begins a journey fraught with danger that will eventually reunite Cymbeline with a long-lost heir and reconcile the young lovers.
The themes of Cymbeline are as relevant today as they were when Shakespeare first wrote them. With echoes of Brexit and questions of national identity, Melly Still’s direction of Shakespeare’s rarely performed play feels surprisingly contemporary. Cymbeline mashes up a variety of different Shakespeare stories (Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet to name a few).
Melly Still (who designed Tales from Ovid and Midnight's Children for the RSC and whose directing credits include The Cunning Little Vixen for Glyndebourne Opera and Coram Boy for the National Theatre) directs Gillian Bevan in the role of Cymbeline, the first woman to take on the role for the RSC, and Bethan Cullinane (King Lear, 2013 Globe Theatre) as a critically-acclaimed Innogen.
Following a run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Cymbeline plays at London's Barbican for a limited season until 17 December 2016.