THEATRE doesn't come much more challenging than this production by the all-male Shakespeare company Propeller.

But it is a challenge that is well rewarded with a superb understanding of this complex play exploring sexual jealousies.

Michael Pavelka's clever metallic staging creates a perfect backdrop for the play and the candles at the opening give a taste of the delicate lighting effects to come.

The first half explores Leontes (Richard Clothier) as his unfounded jealousy leads him to near madness and the loss of both his wife Hermione (Simon Scarfield) and son Mamillius (Tam Williams).

Tam Williams puts in a superb performance as the young prince.

And, even worse, he has already banished his only daughter, believing her to be illegitimate.

I especially liked the mental anguish evident when Leontes could only find his own legs to hug when needing solace.

It's far more light-hearted in the second half which features the sheep shearing festival at which the rogue Autolycus (Tony Bell) brings plenty of hilarity, especially in his Elvis moments, and the shepherds (Chris Myles and James Tucker) act as great foils to the humour, especially in the nude scene.

Of course, it all ends happily with Leontes reunited with daughter Perdita, who has now grown into a paragon of a woman and is in love with Prince Florizel, son of the King of Bohemia.

The ghost scenes at the end of the play were touching and I think the audience were pleased Leontes had finally made his peace with Hermione. AG