Cymbeline

Strong and Interesting Casting Improves Cymbeline

 

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

In this year’s Twelfth Night at Stratford Festival, two of the main characters have been changed from men to women. The same thing has been done in Cymbeline, now playing at the Tom Patterson Theatre. Cymbeline is a Queen rather than a King, and she has a daughter, Innogen, rather than a son. And, like Romeo and Juliet, the deception begins with the daughter’s secret marriage.

Cymbeline is presented on stage less often than other works of Shakespeare, perhaps because the tale twists around before any conclusion is reached. Director Esther Jun has unravelled the stories which in fact, seem to work better with the mother-daughter relationship.

Young Innogen has gone against her mother’s wishes and marries Posthumus. As soon as her mother, Queen Cymbeline, hears of it, she banishes Posthumus from her realm in old Britain. The Duke, Cymbeline’s husband, wants to marry his step-daughter off to his son, Cloton, a Roman soldier. Innogen has no interest in her step-brother.

There are many twists and turns in the story, with Posthumus falling victim to Iachimo’s bets regarding Innogen’s faithfulness. Posthumus tells his servant Pisanio to kill Innogen, but instead Pisanio allows Innogen to escape, hiding in the woods disguised as a boy.

Meanwhile war breaks out between Britain and Rome, and Britain is victorious, thanks to Belarius. He is also responsible for returning two young men, Guiderius and Arviragus to Cymbeline. We learn they are her sons, and were kidnapped some time ago.

Mix in some treason by the Duke, some supernatural events witnessed by Posthumus, and some post-war explanations, and the various plots unfold. Finally, Innogen and Posthumas are given Queen Cymbeline’s blessing and peace returns to Britain.

Lucy Peacock is a forceful Cymbeline bringing her confidence to this character. Allison Edwards-Crewe plays an interesting Innogen, who goes on a journey both physically and mentally, becoming a stronger woman. Jordin Hall as Posthumus is charming and there is chemistry between him and Innogen. Tyrone Savage is a cocky and deceitful Iachimo.

Jonathan Goad is excellent as Belarius. He speaks Shakespeare’s language perfectly and his performance is impeccable.  His clarity in using the language helps unravel the plot twists. Michael Wamara and Noah Beemer offer some comic relief as Guiderius and Arviragus.

Cymbeline is not a favourite of most Shakespeare fans. Yet this production might make it more popular. A strong cast has given a new take on the main story, and in doing so, offered greater understanding of the sub-plots.

Cymbeline continues in repertory until September 28 at Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival by calling 1-800-567-1600 or online at www.stratfordfestival.ca

 Photo: Jordin Hall (in red) as Posthumus Leonatus, Allison Edwards-Crewe as Innogen, and Lucy Peacock as Queen Cymbeline, with the company. Photo by David Hou.

 Cymbeline
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Esther Jun
Performed by Allison Edwards-Crewe, Lucy Peacock, Jonathan Goad, Jordin Hall, Irene Poole, Tyrone Savage, et al.
Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford
May 29 September 28, 2024
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

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