Though Shakespeare has many plays, my all time favourite is Cymbeline. I love the entangled plots combined with a joyous ending. The play symbolizes the positive outcome of events for one who is wrong but finds conviction. In addition, it focuses on the notion that the truth will set one free. Moreover, due to my captivation I searched for a production of the play in which success was found.
Playing at Waterloo East Theatre, an interesting interpretation of Cymbeline was found in this hidden, small theatre presented by the Albatross Theatre. As the audience walked in, the small room was pitch black with only the stage lighted. Based on the room's set-up the entire audience was able to be up-close and personal because of the size of the room and levels of platforms each row of chairs stood upon. The set-up pleased me because it made it easy for all to enjoy the play without stressing about trying to see what’s happening on stage. It was also nice to see a diversity of people in the crowd. There were people of all ages, races and genders. It seemed that the outreach in promotion went well though the theatre isn’t as well known.
Furthermore, looking onto the stage the only constant props were a wooden chair and table. The performers used these same props for multiple purposes, such as, bedroom furniture referencing back to the scene between Imogen and Iachimo. I was intrigued by how the director executed a complex play that naturally required different settings and props with just a single table and chair. From the palace, to the bedroom to the countryside it was impressive to see how the cast transitioned from one environment to the next on a small stage with just two props. The play even goes from one country to another. Even for members of the audience, who didn’t read the play beforehand, could easily understand the transitions of one place to the next based on the clarity demonstrated in script and acting.
In addition, to modernize this interpretation of the play the costumes used were simple, plain and the typical clothing worn by young adults in the 21st century. From the ripped jeans and black tank top Posthumus wore to Cloten’s short-sleeve button up it became evident that the cast wanted to introduce a more cool and relaxed version of the play. Aside from the choice in costume, the age group chosen for the play was relatively young. To make this story seem more interesting, I believe Director Emma Wilkinson chose a young cast to engage the audience with the theme of a younger generation making rash decisions out of love, hate, jealously, greed and so on. It brilliantly fits with the turn of events. For example, Posthumus rashly deciding to have Imogen murdered, Cloten plotting to rape Imogen in Posthumus’s clothing and even Cymbeline choosing to ignore the agreement with Italy for no just reason. Moments such as these could be based on immaturity and rashness. That is why I believe the director strove to take this approach. Furthermore, adding youth to this version allowed younger audiences to relate and understand the complexity behind the plots.
It was a pleasant surprise that there was no music used for this production. Looking back at the approach from Romeo and Juliet at the New Diorama Theatre, I can appreciate both visions. But something about this play just displays purity and rawness that I haven't seen before. Not only was there an absence of music but also lighting was in its simplest forms. There were no flashing lights, strange noises (looking back at Macbeth at the Vaults) or even soft rhythms played, which typically is used to dictate the changes in emotion of the audience. This version of Cymbeline truly demonstrated acting in its truest form.
Out of everything, what captured me as a viewer was the role-playing. This production placed an interesting twist in the story. In the play, social issues and pride of oneself was incorporated. In saying that, it was intriguing to see women play men roles, such as, Posthumus and Belarius. Women played both roles, but that's not the most interesting part. Throughout the performance their genders were acknowledged. This was absolutely my favourite factor of the play. Personally, there is nothing that bothers me the most than watching a play and the script doesn't match the gender. I enjoyed, for example, when Imogen referred to Posthumus as "she" or "her." Or even when Guiderius referred to Belarius as "mother." Its details like this that satisfies a spectator such as myself.
In regard to the acting, the performer that stood out the most was Mark Milligan who played Cloten. He added humour, creativity and comic relief for the audience. By being eccentric and dramatic he formed his own idea of the character. This was demonstrated well in his acting and was highly appreciated from the audience knowingly from frequent applause and laughter during or at the end of his scenes. As for the other performers, their level of performance seemed more amateur. Cloten stole the show.
Overall, through the creativity, originality, and rawness displayed I would recommend this version of Cymbeline to anyone interested in the story over the theatrics.