THEATRE SET-UP Ltd.

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The energetic cast excel with their unanimously enthusiastic performances... This was Shakespeare in its purest form, yet cleverly made accessible to a modern audience.

(The Stage, 2007)

All the characters were well defined, even though each member of the cast had several roles to play.

(Isle of Wight County Press, 2007)

A top quality evening out

(blog from Lonan3, Isle of Man, 2007)

Artistic consistency over the years... Top-drawer Shakespeare.

(The Echo, Loughborough, 2007)

Theatre Set-Up gave a captivating interpretation at Castle Doowerth.

(De Gelderlander, The Netherlands, 2007)

Reviews of CYMBELINE 2009


Date reviewed 10 July 2009 by Anne Morley-Priestman at the Theatre Royal,Bury st Edmunds WOS rating ***


...Best of the performances are those of Emily Outred as Imogen, Tony Portacio as both Posthumus (Imogen's husband) and Cloten (her oafish step-brother and would-be spouse) and Richard Sanderson as the malevolent Iachimo and Polydore/Guiderius...


In the lengthy exchange between two of Cymbeline's courtiers which opens the play, Richard Plumley managed to sound both interesting and natural. And Elizabeth Arends made a neat and contrasting double performance as Pisanio, Posthumus' servant and Cadwal/Arviragus, the younger of the king's two abducted and disguised sons.


Who's who for any scene is conveyed through costume - terracotta for the Romans, green for the Celts - and wigs. Lots of wigs. The designers are Kim Jones, Evelyn Cousins and Andrew Fisher. I have a feeling that the production by artistic director Wendy Macphee and Portacio would have appeared to better effect out-of-doors - which is the norm for Theatre Set-Up - rather than in a conventional theatre.


Date reviewed 10th July 2009 by Mary Dunk, at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

A play which moves between Ancient Rome, Britain, Wales involving caves, bedroom spies, a headless corpse, a diamond ring and stolen bracelet does not sound like straightforward viewing. It isn't. Eight actors tackle twenty-three roles vigorously in this production of Shakespeare's enigmatic play currently on European tour.


Audiences are supported by an astonishingly dense programme and scene-by scene commentary. The play, one of Shakespeare's last, is described as a comedy in the magical Celtic tradition, though the comedic strand is obscure to say the least. But there is the satisfaction of a happy ending where warring parties are reconciled, there is forgiveness all round and long-lost sons are reunited with their father.


Forgiveness is certainly a high priority. Posthumus (Tony Portacio) had to flee the British court early on having incurred the wrath of his father-in-law Cymbeline. He falls for an old trick when Iachimo (Richard Sanderson) bets him that his devoted wife Imogen (Emily Outred) can't be faithful, and a diamond ring is passed over. Inevitably this ends in tears, Iachimo sneaking into Imogen's bedroom half a continent away, and returning with her jewellery and a false report on her intimate details. Posthumus' predictable reaction nearly causes Imogen's death, but the day is saved. Meanwhile, on a nearby battlefield, Rome is invading Britain, and the man who kidnapped Cymbeline's infant sons has a change of heart. There is also room for the scheming stepmother with ambitious plans for the lazy son.


Emily Outred's outstanding Imogen gives this production a consistency and charm, while Elizabeth Arends is strong as her servant Helen. The moments of poetry, particularly the famous "Fear no more the heat of the sun" always redeem this mysterious play. Theatre Set-Up, under the artistic direction of Wendy Macphee, have done well to make this play accessible to a wider audience.



Date reviewed July 02 2009 by Jennifer Scott at Holme Pierrepont Hall, Nottingham


CYMBELINE is a big yappy mongrel of a play.

You spend much of it trying to work out how on earth it all pieces together but, come its upbeat, waggy-taled ending, you can't help loving it.

It is Shakespeare as farce - or rather a "best of" compilation album of all his other plays.

There are few great, intense soliloquies or emotion-racking characters. Instead you have a complex tangle of actions to follow, in which Cymbeline, the King of Celtic Britain, has banished the new husband of his daughter Imogen, who married against his wishes. Of course, he comes to realise the error of his ways but, along the way, we have doubling characters, girls dressing up as boys, long lost sons, faithful servants and, that old chestnut, sleep-inducing drugs that make your nearest and dearest assume you've snuffed it.


The programme for Theatre Set-Up's outdoor production at Holme Pierrepont Hall made much of the play's Celtic symbolism.


The performance, though was far from heavy-going. Characters bounded on to stage in an array of daft Sacha Baron Cohen wigs and laid-on-with-a trowel-accents. The result was a massively engaging and entertaining show that was quite perfect for its vol-au-vont eating audience. The battle scenes were a bit bewildering and the sound quality fluctuated at times. Yet the the talented cast, all Shakespeare old-hands, delivered their lovely lines with precision and managed the quite amazing feat of performing two or three characters apiece - sometimes in the same scene.


It rather makes you regret that CYMBELINE isn't performed outdoors more often.

Reviews for THE MERCHANT OF VENICE 2010

PERFECT SETTING FOR VIBRANT TELLING OF MERCHANT'S TALE.
A handful of actors, a stretch of lawn for a stage and some top-class Shakespeare on offer. It can only mean one thing - Theatre Set-Up were back on the Island.
The travelling theatre company has been visiting the Island for three decades now. They almost never disappoint and they certainly didn't this time with the lush New Zealand garden of Ventnor Botanic Garden providing a glorious backdrop for a two=night production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
The cast numbered just seven, the props were minimal and the only "stage" was the two small tents that the actors could make their entrances and exits from.
If you are going to have such a stripped back Shakespeare, the quality of the acting is everything and, yet again, Theatre Set-Up had got together an impressive cast who told this familiar story with fresh vibrancy.
Such is the reputation Theatre Set-Up has built up on the island, the audience was large and out to enjoy a good evening. The joy was that once the play was underway the picnics were put aside and every one sat in rapt and silent attention throughout, so there was nothing to distract from the drama unfolding in front of us.
Jane Clutterbuck, Isle of Wight County Press


Celbrating 34 years of professional Shakespeare productions with an International Tour covering 34 venues in seven countries, Theatre Set-Up arrived, mid-tour, in the peaceful surround of Heathfield Walled Garden, Croydon.
Famed for Shylock's demanding of "a pound of flesh" and the adage that "all that glistens is not gold", The Merchant of Venice is often classed as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", presenting a moral dilemma, with a keen balance between dark drama and comic tomfoolery.
And though much is speculated of the play's racist overtones, symbolism and hidden meanings, more importantly, this is a jolly good tale, and there can be no better way to comprehend the bard than by just watching a production of this quality - gimmick-free and beautifully presented.
The open air setting was minimalist with three pavilion tents set against the garden background - one tent either side of the playing area for costume changes, and one central in which sat the harpist.
There were no technical requirements of light or sound, as the actors' natural vocal projection was more than ample.
Costuming was most excellent, in the Venetian style of colourful wigs, masks and tricorn hats.
Much in the way that Shakespeare himself would have toured, Theatre Set-Up work with a reduced cast of just seven, hence each player took on several roles, including their own alter-ego.
Not that this detracted from the piece in that the individual characterisations were clearly defined in costume, posture and accent. Moreover, their great familiarity with the text and well choreographed action made the plot easily comprehensible to all.
Of the many fine portrayals from Richard Sanderson (Bassanio), Steven Rostance (Gratiano), Suzie Edwards (Portia), Jamie Blake (Solanio), and Elizabeth Arends (Nerissa), it was Tony Portacio (Shylock), also credited with directing the play, who impressed most as a well seasoned villain, while Terry Ashe (Antonio), almost stole the show with his cameo as the sand blind Old Gobbo.
But for the ants which took flight just before the interval, this was a near perfect lazy summer’s afternoon.

Peter Read, The Croydon Advertiser


Could there be anything lovelier than a word-perfect, inspired cast performing Shakespeare's classic lines in the style of an eighteenth century Venetian carnival, against the backdrop of the stunning Glastonbury Abbey with a harpist accompanying the ensemble?
The second half was perfect with excellent performances from all the hard-working cast - many of whom had more than one part to play. In particular I revelled in the comic Lancelot (Steven Rostance), the suitably-repulsive Shylock (Tony Portacio), and the clever and witty Portia (Suzie Edwards).
The minimalist set-up of the evening was cleverly done, with the ruined walls of the abbey adding to the atmosphere superbly along with the lighting and sound.
 
Extracts from the Somerset Gazette review by Emma Frampton at Glastonbury Abbey