Thursday 10 December 2015

Cymbeline - Review

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Yates

Emily Barber and Eugene O'Hare

In that little wooden candlelit nest of magic and wonder that is the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Sam Yates directs a dreamy, fairytale-like Cymbeline.

Originally written to be performed across the river at the Blackfriars playhouse, (and now playing in that venue’s simulacrum) the play is a tragicomedy with heavy dark elements (jealousy, betrayal, poisoning, the list goes on) none of which appears to do much harm to this reassuring and family-friendly Globe production.

The clumsy villains all seem fatally destined to fail, the love between Emily Barber's Innogen and Jonjo O'Neill's Posthumus will clearly be blessed with a happy ending and the intricate Chinese box of the plot is solved in a jolly choral grand finale.

There is a beautiful simplicity to the Globe’s Playhouse, though one wonders if the surroundings, music and lighting could have dared to push the fantasy world further? They are faithful and faultless, if a touch plain and unmoving.

A better result is achieved with the costumes. Innogen’s trustworthy purity is manifest by her dress, simple and angelically light blue, contrasting with the Queen’s dark heart and her decorated dress.

The real strength of this Cymbeline is its cast’s ability to deliver Shakespeare’s language in a modern, contemporary way, that underlines the carefully crafted comedy in the text.

Barber’s performance is a high point, offering a lively representation of youth, love and beauty of heart. Pauline McLynn’s Queen succeeds as the fairytale evil stepmother (even her body language and hand gestures look mean and sly). And whilst Eugene O’Hare’s Iachimo looks more like a tombeur de femmes than a Machiavellian Iago, the audience seems to stay happily on his side!

Yates’ Cymbeline looks more like a blurred, funny reverie than a passionate, violent story, but given that it works and after all, “tis the season to be jolly”, it's well worth seeing.

Runs until 21st April 2016
Guest Reviewer: Simona Negretto
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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