The all-male company, Propeller are in Cheltenham with two Shakespeare plays: we saw The Winter's Tale yesterday evening, last seen by me in 1993 (Adrian Noble's magical production at Stratford). This was only the second night of Edward Hall's production, and perhaps it will improve; but I wonder. The verse speaking left a lot to be desired: so much of the text is gabbled. (We were near the front, and I don't think I'm getting that deaf!)
In the first three Acts, men playing ladies' roles are fine. But then a major problem arose, with the entry of the 16-year-old Perdita. In Shakespeare's day, I imagine it wasn't as difficult a part as many others in the canon for a teenage boy, who could look much like a beautiful princess in shepherd's guise; but Ben Allen? No.
The best bit of the evening by far was the chorus of sheep - The Bleatles. A pity the bear wasn't equally evident. And a great shame there were so many empty seats! For, whatever one's reservations about the production, it's a joy to have live Shakespeare in our beautiful Everyman Theatre. Is this the recession?