by William Shakespeare translated by Kazuko Matsuoka.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 2 June 2012.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 243 0785.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 May.
Grand-scale war in Milford Haven, with the Romans in Britain.
London theatre provides intriguing juxtapositions. At present, from two world-class directors, Peter Brook with The Suit at the Young Vic and Yukio Ninagawa’s Cymbeline at the Barbican.
It’s not simply the contrast of scale; Brook’s cast can be numbered on the fingers of one hand, with Ninagawa’s, fingers, thumbs and toes combined will run out. As in the contrast between a string quartet and full symphony orchestra, what’s looked, or listened, for is different. In The Suit each moment is perceived through the individual voices, whether speaking or listening. In Cymbeline it’s a matter of overall impact.
Ninagawa doesn’t fear grand theatricality. No British company would dare provide the kind of detailed painted flat with a whole cut through that is the exiles’ cave-home in Wales, nor probably the hefty orange sunset around Milford Haven.
But he happily undercuts any realism; painted flats clatter to the floor and are whisked away, leaving the king’s daughter Imogen suddenly on a bare stage to walk, with her suitcase, into exile on a path of white light.
Lighting helps with the battle between ancient British king Cymbeline’s army and the invading Romans. Familiar slow-motion movement is incorporated within imaginative staging, as the armies first march separately across the stage, then approach each other, apparently carried on platforms of light, towards an eventual slow-moving clash, where swords silently strike under a sound-storm of explosive modern weaponry. This then gives way to a human cry of agony and isolated musical notes as energised conflict becomes weary aftermath.
In a conclusion to traumatize a Europhobe, having won the battle Cymbeline concedes the war and agrees to resume paying taxes to the Roman Emperor. For the true conflicts and betrayals are between individuals. And the bad guys (and queen) almost win; it takes coincidence, divine intervention from a bird-borne Jupiter and much mopping-up of plot to sort matters satisfactorily.
This probably appears funnier than it should to non-Japanese speakers, picking-up what’s going-on by reading the flat surtitles rather than through the intensity or pathos of the leading voices. But throughout, Ninagawa’s forceful theatricality is evident as ever.
Posthumus Leonatus: Hiroshi Abe.
Imogen: Shinobu Otake.
Iachimo: Yosuke Kubozuka.
Cloten/Jupiter: Masanobu Katsumura.
Guiderius: Kenji Urai.
Belarius: Tetsuro Sagawa.
Cymbeline: Kohtaloh Yoshida.
Queen: Ran Ohtori.
Pisanio: Keikta Oishi.
Caius Lucius: Tomomi Maruyama.
Arviragus: Satoru Kawaguchi.
Helen/Ghost of Posthumus’s Mother: Kyoko Iguchi.
Philario/British Captain 2/Roman Aristocrat: Hideaki Tezuka.
Gentleman 1/Italian Gentleman/Ghost of Posthumus’s Father: Ikkyu Jyuku.
Gentleman 2/Spanish Gentleman/British Lord: Hiroki Okawa.
Lord 1/Italian Gentleman/Philarmonus/Roman Soldier: Tadashi Okada.
Lord 2/British Captain 1/Roman Soldier: Masazumi Nitanda.
French Gentleman/Roman Aristocrat/Ghost of Posthumus’s second-eldest Brother: Elichi Seike.
Cornelius/British Lord/Roman Aristocrat: Kunihiro Iida.
Lord/Gaoler: Yukio Tsukamoto.
Lord/Italian Gentleman/Messenger/Roman Soldier: Takeshi Inomo, Masashi Shinohara.
German Gentleman/Roman Captain/Ghost of Posthumus’s eldest brother: Shinya Matsuda.
Musician (violin)/Roman Soldier/British Soldier: Hiroyuki Chiba.
Musician (guitar, Japanese Lute): Kenta Kitamura.
Director: Yukio Ninagawa.
Designer: Tsukasa Nakagoshi.
Lighting: Jiro Katsushiba.
Sound: Masahiro Inoue.
Composer: Umitaro Abe.
Costume: Nobuko Miyamoto.
Hair/Make-up: Yuko Sato.
Fight director: Naoki Kurihara.
Assistant director: Sonsho Inoue.