Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Shakespeare'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 d̩nouement. An impressive ensemble РGlobe 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 Рelsewhere Alex Baranowski provides some marvellous music, plangent cello to the fore.

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