Greg Doran signs off with a real thriller - The Leamington Observer

Greg Doran signs off with a real thriller


RSC Stratford

FROM Britain to Rome and to the wild countryside of the Welsh coast, taking in betrayal, grief, love, violence and war, Cymbeline has always been the Bard on an epic scale and in this production there’s a vision and a sense of intent to match.

Stephen Crimson Lewis’s design is simple, indeed it could hardly be simpler. An empty stage opening out before a solid-looking wall in which multiple doors burst open to let in characters and shafts of light, all overlooked by a sizeable globe which as both sun and moon changes colour and reflects its light on the action below.

Recent productions at the RST have been keen to make the most of the theatre’s immense height and this was no exception, the appearance late on of the God Jupiter floating down from above, backed by the huge wings of an eagle and announced by blinding flashes and Lous thunder is as theatrical as it gets.

Paul Englishby’s musical score is well-pitched throughout. From the opening exposition to the expanses and battles at the end, the underscoring is both effective and atmospheric, a triumph of impact and balance.

There are absolutely no discordant notes in a very cohesive company showing, and the final time in the director’s chair for Greg Doran,. Good performances and excellent detail can be found wherever the gaze wanders across a big cast of very distinct characters.

Perhaps one of the elements of RSC performances we’ve come to take for granted during the time Greg Doran has been steering his actors is the sparkling, surprising and completely unapologetic sense of comedy. Nobody makes Shakespeare’s lines sound quite so modern; nobody seems to encourage actors to find ways to drop out of rhetoric in an instant to punch a laugh from the audience. It must be something discovered in rehearsal and we must all hope it doesn’t now fade away.

There is, as you’d expect, huge comedy in this production even in the midst of copious violence, anger and wailing. Jamie Wilkes as Iachimo is a nasty schemer, but one with the strutting self-love and weaknesses of a Russell Brand creation. Often played as a simple meathead Cloten, in the hands of Conor Glean, is a joyous confection of arrogance, greed, jealousy and teenage temper.

The best of the comedy, though, rests with an excellent performance from Amber James. Given what happens to Imogen – husband banished, scheming mother, targeted by sex-crazed Cloten, forced to live wild as a man, caught up in war and so on – the fact that there’s room for levity is a wonder but this production, and it’s director, finds it and makes it shine.

Peter de Jersey as Cymbeline, Ed Sayer as Posthumus, Alexandra Gilbreath as the Queen and many more all put in sterling shifts to ensure that this whopper at a full three hours is never less than compelling.

Greg Doran’s productions have never shied away from big endings and it takes something to eclipse a full stage of characters after such a feast of drama, but the coruscating light which consumes the whole at the end is a send-off worthy of a very special journey.


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