Damned fine production

A friend and I attended Antoni Cimolino‘s production of Cymbeline at Stratford. This is probably the last play that Shakespeare (and possibly someone else) wrote, but it’s not presented often cuz it’s, well, bizarre to modern sensibilities. It could have been really really wrong, but much to my delight, it was totally entertaining.

Its success is with Cimolino’s direction, the actors and the staging all. Cymbeline has a Shakespeare checklist of plot devices: wronged daughter, star-cross lovers, cross-dressing, deceit, battle, gods, evil queen, and the evil fop. I mean, Jupiter shows up on a freaking great bird that breathes fire. That’s a lot of credulity to stretch.

The standouts were not always the big names. Sure, Yanna McIntosh nails the evil queen. In fact, I think she should play every evil queen. Tom McCamus brought the same malevolent charm of his Valmont to Iachimo, with a dash of Iago thrown in. Geraint Wyn Davies as the title character was solid, but I found his huge swings in mood and oratory to be some of the weakest dialogue in the play (author’s fault, that one).

Mike Shara was an absolute delight as Cloten, the vapid, evil step-son of King Cymbeline and the Queen’s natural son. Every time he was on the stage he stole it. Then when he came to his “end”, the audience gasped – always a sign that the room is enthralled with what’s going on. Cara Ricketts also shone as Innogen, playing her not quite so “sweet girl duped” as might happen with a different characterization.

Graham Abbey, as Posthumus, was a bit Shakespearian in some of his delivery, but in his quiet moments, he was superb. I found his later scenes, when he tries to get himself killed as a capture Roman, to be the most affecting.

Overwhelmingly, this play was FUNNY. Aware of the elements that were overwrought. The lady in front of me laughed so hard she hit her head on my feet. Cimolino got it. Lines that might have been overwrought get a deadpan delivery. Asides to the audience pull them in. Really, the best kind of play in a play.

Well done. Have to say I agree with Richard on this one.