CYMBELINEShakespeare's Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Could this be the year of Cymbeline ? The RSC's production of the “rarely performed romance” [their words] – with a female Cymbeline – opens in April; the great Globe itself has Matthew Dunster's version, rebadged as Imogen, in September. In the meantime, in the candle-lit Jacobean space, Sam Yates' colourful production stresses the knockabout fun as well as the weirdly tragic.
It is very much Imogen's play – here she's Innogen, an old typo redressed – excellently done by Emily Barber, especially compelling when disguised as the youth Fidele. Her Posthumus is Jonjo O'Neill, her evil step-mother done with gleeful gusto by Pauline McLynn, who also appears impressively as the deus ex machina Jupiter, stretching the authenticity of the production to its limits in a wonderful moment of stunning stagecraft. Joseph Marcel makes a grave monarch in the title role.
There is blood, and pathos, but much comedy too, especially in the OTT dénouement. An impressive ensemble – Globe stalwart Brenda O'Hea is outstanding as the exiled Belarius, Trevor Fox an engagingly blunt Pisanio. Not without its disappointments: there is much more to the doltish Cloten than we get from Calum Callaghan, and Fear No More the Heat of the Sun, though credibly performed as a gauchely improvised eulogy, has little magic here – elsewhere Alex Baranowski provides some marvellous music, plangent cello to the fore.