CYMBELINE – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

★★★★
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe – until 21 April 2016
Guest reviewer: Simona Negretto

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

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Jonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.
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Jonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.