by Lynn on June 25, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont. Cymbeline playing until September 28, Romeo and Juliet plays until Oct. 26, 2024.

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Esther Jun

Set and lighting by Echo Zhou

Costumes by Michelle Bohn

Composer, Njo Kang Kie

Sound by Olivia Wheeler

Cast: Christopher Allen

Noah Beemer

Caleigh Crow

Allison Edwards-Crewe

Jonathan Goad

Jordin Hall

Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks

Wahsontí:io Kirby

Matthew Wabwe

Josue Laboucane

Julie Lumsden

Chris Mejaki

Evan Mercer

Marcus Nance

Anthony Palermo

Lucy Peacock

Irene Poole

Jennifer Rider-Shaw

Rick Roberts

Anthony Santiago

Tyrone Savage

Tara Sky

Michael Wamara

A muscular, nuanced production that pulses with emotion and intrigue.

The Story. The programme synopsis is long. I’ll go for the shorter version. “Innogen, the only daughter of Queen Cymbeline, marries Posthumus, a worthy yet low-born ward of the court. In fury, Cymbeline banishes Posthumus. The Duke, Cymbeline’s husband, plots to wed Innogen to his only son, her stepbrother, Cloten and to rally Britain against Rome. Iachimo, a wealthy nobleman, wagers that Innogen is not as pure as Posthumus thinks.” There is lots of intrigue, trickety, subplots and complications.

The Production. Director Esther Jun has done a fine job of telling the story clearly. She establishes various plot lines with Jupiter (a courtly Marcus Nance) indicating the many players and how they are connected.

There are also a few gender-bends in casting: Cymbeline is now a Queen played by a fiery, impassioned Lucy Peacock; that means her husband is a Duke played by a quietly slippery Rick Roberts; Pisano, usually played by a man is played by Irene Poole in a nuanced, compelling performance.

The acting in the production is fine. As Innogen, Allison Edwards-Crewe is a calm and committed presence. She is naturally upset when Posthumus (Jordin Hall) is banished, but she is clear-eyed about finding him when he leaves. Allison Edwards-Crewe gives a measured performance proving the loyalty and belief of her husband.  As Posthumus, Jordin Hall is courtly in his bearing and faithful in believing Innogen is a faithful wife. Even when Iachimo (Tyrone Savage) gives ‘proof’ of Innogen’s disloyalty, Posthumus continues to trust her until the ‘proof’ is too much for Posthumus to disbelieve. Tyrone Savage moves like a dancer when he appears in Innogen’s bedroom, ready to fabricate the lie that she is untrue. Tyrone Savage is seductive, deceptive and compelling in Iachimo’s evilness.

Echo Zhou has designed an arresting set and Michelle Bohn’s costumes are evocative of an earthier, much earlier time when Britain’s people were rugged, warring and caught up in the world of impending battle.

Comment. Women often don’t get a fair break with Shakespeare. Take for example, Much Ado About Nothing written in either 1598 or 1599. At least twice during the play Hero is thought to be untrue. The villain Don John says so to Hero’s betrothed, Claudio and her father Leonato and they immediately believe him and not the chaste Hero. These guys don’t give a second thought to the source of the information—a villain. Don John says Hero is untrue and Claudio and Leonato believe him—twice. One sucks air at the stupidity.

But then in 1610, Shakespeare wrote Cymbeline and when Iachimo discredits Innogen, Posthumus continues to believe his wife is true until the information he is given about her cannot be denied (even though the information was gathered through sneaky means). What a difference 12 years in a playwright’s growth can make. Women stay the course in Shakespeare, it’s the fellahs who fail them.

Cymbeline is terrific and worth a visit.

Plays until September 28, 2024.

Running time: 3 hours (1 Intermission)

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