Stratford Upon Avon
Cymbeline: William Shakespeare
RSC: RST, Stratford Upon Avon, to 15 October, then Barbican to 22 December
Runs: 3h, 35m, one interval
Tkts: 0844 800 1110
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 28 May 2016
Shapely production of a play that tends to shapelessness
CYMBELINE’s a real problem play; structured, or plotted, like a complex folk tale, on its feet it is often as unlikely as it is confusing. A play good in parts, but messy in others. Director, Melly Still, has done well to bring this sprawling drama for the most part under control – occasionally, as in the opening scenes, the action could do with greater focus. One of the elements that does come across most clearly is what a thoroughly nasty lot most of the characters are – a story of lies, intrigue, double dealing, lust for power; love, honour and goodness have a hard time breaking through.
There are a number of gender changes in this production, from the top and downwards; these work well and add a freshness to the tale. Gillian Bevan creates a very human Queen Cymbeline, though could do with more authority, while James Clyde is splendid as the ‘wicked (now) stepfather.’ Particularly good is Kelly Williams’s Pisanio – clearly defined, tightly focused and full of energy.
Melly Still endeavours to add veracity to the telling by playing some scenes in Italian and Latin. It’s a bold effect which works well, though the projected English text doesn’t. Anyway, it’s superfluous as we pick up the gist well enough.
From Rome, Oliver Johnstone makes a splendidly swaggering Iachimo, contrasting well with Hiran Abeysekera’s naïve and vulnerable Posthumus. Their scenes together are among the best moments in the production. Among a host of strong performances Graham Turner’s Belarius is particularly fine, he exudes warmth and common decency, a welcome and rare commodity in the world of this play.
Anna Fleischle’s settings encompass time and spaces with ease; Dave Price’s score and Jonathan Ruddick’s soundscape I found over-blown and at times over-bearing.
This unruly tale is nicely tied up in a well-played final scene with its potful of declarations and revelations; underpinned with great sincerity it sweeps us along to a satisfying conclusion.
Posthumus: Hiran Abeysekera
Lord / Dutchman: Romayne Andrews
Cymbeline: Gillian Bevan
Caius Lucius / Spaniard: Eke Chukwu
Duke: James Clyde
Arviagus: James Cooney
Imogen: Bethan Cullinane
Helen / British Attendant / Soldier: Marieme Diouf
First Gentlewoman / Soldier: Jenny Hennessy
Soldier / Tribune / Messenger: Kevin N Golding
Cloten / Soldier: Marcus Griffin
Iachimo: Oliver Johnstone
Philario / / Soldier: Byron Mandahl
Lord 2 / Frenchman / Captain: Theo Ogundipe
Guideria: Natalie Simpson
Belarius: Graham Turner
Philharmonia / Gentlewoman 2: Temi Wilkey
Pisario / Soldier: Kelly Williams
Director: Melly Still
Designer: Anna Fleschle
Lighting: Philip Gladwell
Music: Dave Price
Sound: Jonathan Ruddick
Movement: Emily Mytton
Fights: Terry King