London review: CYMBELINE

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

The Globe's production of Cymbeline in the Sam Wanamaker Theatre—an enchanting indoor venue lit only by candles—is both beautiful and boisterous.  Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's four late quartet of plays (Pericles, A Winter's Tale, The Tempest are the others) about fathers and daughters; unlike Lear, another late play about a father and daughters, these lesser known works end in forgiveness and reunions.

 Cymbeline has a plot filled with bizarre events, a collage of sex and death, betrayals and revenge that can seem impossibly over-the-top.  Sam Yates, the bold director of this production, seems to have said, "Really?!? Come on," and decided to risk radical shifts from tragedy to comedy, from gothic to romantic.

An example: in a play filled with gender confusions, Jupiter appears in drag, with breasts instead of thunderbolts. There are other wondrous and delightful confusions and disguises as well: corpses who are alive, accents high and low, mountain men who are really princes, Britons in disguise as Romans, and, of course, private feelings dissembled for public ambitions.

The villain is Iacimo (Eugene O'Hare) who has bet the exiled Posthumus (Jonjo O'Neill) that he can seduce his love Innogen (a lovely Emily Barber) who is trying desperately to avoid marriage with the vulgar clod Cloten (Calum Callaghan), the son of the wicked queen (Pauline McLynn), while the Roman army is at the gates demanding Briton's king, Cymbeline (Joseph Marcell) pay back taxes.  The only wholly honorable man is a servant, Pisanio (the excellent Trevor Fox).

As always, the Globe provides a theatrical experience both entertaining and transporting, authentic and fine in a rare way.

A good finale to a good week. And so home again.