Cymbeline is not one of Shakespeare’s most eminent plays and is seldom performed. However, with a mix of all the Bards prominent themes of mistaking identity and a classic twist on a love story, from the outset this portmanteau piece should be a most enjoyable play. Elements of this production display a great attention to detail, most notably in the fight scenes, which were beautifully choreographed and staged. Despite a sound grasp on Shakespeare’s verse, there are times where lines are rushed over, ultimately damaging the message conveyed.
The play is set in the Britain of Augustus’ Roman Empire and centres on Imogen, the daughter of King Cymbeline, and her marriage to the brave yet poor Posthumus Leonatus. Expected to marry her stepmother’s son Cloten, Imogen disobeys these orders by marrying Posthumus, resulting in his exile from the kingdom. With subplots testing Imogen’s faithfulness and virtue and the discovery of the King’s long lost song Guiderius, Cymbeline fulfils the expected Shakespearian problem play genre with its convoluted plot and flashes of downright silliness.
To quote Shakespeare, ‘One man in his time plays many parts’ and this is certainly true of this performance with actors doubling as various characters, which is skillfully handled and does not hamper the story’s development, or our understanding of characterisations. Although the plot is contrived, the production is successfully paced and there never seems to be any sense of confusion or dislocation, which is a testament to the performers for their distinguishable character portrayals. Worthy of an honourable mention is David Gurney whose excellent depiction of the villainous Iachimo and dutiful Belarius competently contrasts the portrayal of the two divergent characters with ease. Another fine performer was Jake Wilson as Pisanio, whose vocal delivery was clear and articulate in such a demanding and central role.
The setting consisting of hung images of the royals in the background were effectively used in the scenes set in Britain and served as a constant reminder of the location. The other setting, mainly metal wire frames were used to alter the geographical locations but at times seem unnecessary and distracting, reducing the professional flair of this piece. Despite this, the performance was still carried out with great success and is a worthy interpretation of Shakespeare’s tortuous play.