by William Shakespeare.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 21 April 2016.
2.30pm 23, 30 Dec, 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23 Jan, 5, 12, 19, 31 Mar, 16, 21 Apr.
7.30pm 23, 29 Dec, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12-15, 19, 21-23 Jan, 4, 11, 18, 26, 30 Mar, 4, 15 Apr.
Audio-described 5 Mar 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.
Lively stab at ridiculous plot.
While Pericles, first in the final four Shakespeare plays to be revived in this season at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, reclaimed the importance of the underlying themes from the shaggy-dog narrative surface in Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole’s notable production, the director of Cymbeline, Sam Yates, has gone with the flow of surface improbabilities.
Scene by scene this allows moving moments. The loss is in overall control of the drama. There’s far too much laughter around. Except in one quarter, the title character, king of ancient Briton, Cymbeline. Joseph Marcell plays him with a rich-voiced gravity. Much of the time the king is out of sight, but when he appears Marcell conveys a sense of majesty rooted less in tradition than in the intensity of human experience.
It’s an experience that leaves him bereft. The underlying political question, of whether Britain should pay tribute to Rome seems arbitrary in its outcome, more to do with the idea of willing submission to authority that might have gone down well with the comparatively affluent audience of the smart indoor Jacobean playhouse during the reign of an absolutist monarch who took his theory seriously, than with any logic of the action.
There is fine detail in, for example, the trickery of Eugene O’ Hare’s Iachimo (deviously Italian to the Stuart stereotype hilt) in gaining the physical detail that tricks Posthumus into believing his beloved Innogen has been unfaithful. And in the trials that follow for her, Emily Barber shows the character’s growing resilience as she takes to Shakespeare’s favoured plot-device of male disguise, his sure sign of a resourceful young woman.
Audience response recognises the absurdities but respects a classic. And unlikely plot elements are no greater than many excused by sheer pace and special effects in modern cinema. They’re doubtless a consistent aspect of excitement – maybe this was the stuff for the Jacobean Tarantino market.
Things are certainly helped by a performance like Calum Callaghan’s as the doltish Cloten, all rank and no sense. But the great late Shakespearean flowering in this manner was – and is, at the Wanamaker – just about to come.
Imogen: Emily Barber.
Cloten: Calum Callaghan.
Pisanio: Trevor Fox.
Arviragus: Darren Kuppan.
Cornelius: Christopher Logan.
Cymbeline: Joseph Marcell.
Queen: Pauline McLynn.
Iachimo: Eugene O’Hare.
Belarius: Brendan O’Hea.
Posthumus: Jonjo O’Neill.
Soothsayer/Philario: Dharmesh Patel.
Mother/Helen: Tika Peucelle.
Caius Lucius: Paul Rider.
Guiderius: Sid Sagar.
Director: Sam Yates.
Designer: Richard Kent.
Composer: Alex Baranowski.
Musical Director: Paul Johnson.
Choreographer/Movement: Michela Meazza.
Globe Associate, Text: Giles Block.
Globe Associate, Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Owain Gwynn.
Assistant director: Rebecca Hill.