Cymbeline at the RSC reviews

Reviews are coming in for the RSC’s new staging of Cymbeline at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, directed by Gregory Doran.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has staged Cymbeline, the last play in Shakespeare’s First Folio, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its publication.

The play is directed by the RSC’s Artistic Director Emeritus Gregory Doran, marking his 50th and last play for the RSC.

The cast includes Jeff Alexander (Soothsayer), Adam Baker (Roman), Iwan Bond (Roman), Tom Chapman (Second Lord), Peter De Jersey (Cymbeline), Alexandra Gilbreath (The Queen), Conor Glean (Cloten), Scott Gutteridge (Guiderius), Mark Hadfield (Pisanio), Amber James (Imogen), Marcia Lecky (1st Gent/Lady/Mother), Jake Mann (Cornelius), Theo Ogundipe (Caius Lucius), Keith Osborn (Philario/Sicilius), Christian Patterson (Belarius), Ed Sayer (Posthumus), Daf Thomas (Arviragus), Barnaby Tobias (First Lord), Cat White (2nd Gent/Helen) and Jamie Wilkes (Iachimo).

Directed by Gregory Doran, the Cymbeline creative team includes Design by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, Lighting by Matt Daw, Music by Paul Englishby, Sound by Jonathan Ruddick, Movement and Intimacy by Siân Williams, Puppetry Direction by Rachel Leonard, Music Direction by Ben McQuigg, Text and Voice Work by Emma Woodvine, and Casting by Helena Palmer CDG.

Cymbeline plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 27 May 2023.

Read reviews including the Times, the Guardian and the Stage. More reviews to follow.

The Guardian

"Shakespeare’s knotty romance is a fabulous farewell for Doran"

"Departing artistic director Greg Doran reinvigorates this tale of a royal family in crisis with clarity and intelligence"

"A triumph for Doran’s method is that there is never doubt about who is or pretending to be whom."

"Doran’s book points out that Cymbeline holds the record for asides in Shakespeare, 10 characters catching our eye. Doran uses these intimacies to engage the audience, also raising the possibility that Shakespeare had reached the end of theatre and was prophesying the interior perspectives of novels (still a century away in English)."

"Peter De Jersey’s Cymbeline unselfishly suggests weakness and illness, speech clotted with coughs, until unleashing glorious full voice as power shifts."

Mark Lawson, The Guardian
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The Times

"Gregory Doran bids farewell with a hyperactive dark fairytale"

"For his final offering as the RSC’s artistic director emeritus, Gregory Doran throws just about everything at a play..."

"If it’s a sprawling, three hours or more journey (the five-minute pause added to the second half of the evening is a hindrance rather than a help)"

"Be warned, though: the mix-and-match approach applies to the performances too. In the title role, Peter De Jersey rages and roars with Lear-like intensity, but his scheming, black-gowned Queen, Alexandra Gilbreath, is required to give her character the nudge-nudge tics of a panto villain."

"The climactic battle scene is thrillingly choreographed, though. And if elsewhere your attention begins to wander, Paul Englishby’s music, light but percussive, provides spiritual balm."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Stage

"Breezy adventure"

"Gregory Doran’s RSC swansong is lively, lavishly designed and full of uplifting warmth"

"Marking former artistic director Gregory Doran’s 50th production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his last in his current emeritus role, this is an exhilaratingly vivid take on Shakespeare’s often overlooked story of deceit, disguise and destructive machismo. Leaning into every opportunity for comedy, Doran renders the play as a breezy adventure, in which compact moments of violence or moving pathos are carefully embedded."

"Amber James provides the show with a deeply sympathetic protagonist as bold, irrepressible princess Imogen."

"Stephen Brimson Lewis’ lavish costumes draw from a distractingly anachronistic mishmash of medieval and ancient styles, with damask fabrics, shaggy furs and segmented armour used to draw clear visual distinctions between the story’s coexisting cultures."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Sunday Times

"A three-hour whirlwind romance"

"Don’t let the running time of more than three hours put you off Cymbeline. Shakespeare’s dark-edged romantic comedy, seldom staged, is done with disciplined briskness. The time flies."

"After February’s scandalously bad Julius Caesar, this is a transformation."

As the plot flicks between the sinister and the jocular, Conor Glean hams things up as Imogen’s dim suitor, Cloten. Glean, alas, lacks natural comic flair. Gilbreath also goes well over the top but she fares better. Sayer and James make earnest lovers and could do with more sex appeal. Peter de Jersey’s king and Mark Hadfield as the upright Pisanio radiate a stage presence that comes of long practice."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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📷 Main photo: Cymbeline - RSC. Photo by Ellie Kurtz

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