Cymbeline

Performance history

Following the performance mentioned by Forman, the play was revived at court for Charles I and Henrietta Maria in 1634.[13] In the Restoration era, Thomas D'Urfey staged an adaptation of Cymbeline, titled The Injur'd Princess, or The Fatal Wager. John Rich staged the play with his company at Lincoln's Inn Fields; the performance was not long-remembered, as Rich's company was less famous for its work with Shakespeare than for its pantomimes and spectacles. Theophilus Cibber revived Shakespeare's text in 1758. In November 1761, David Garrick returned to a more-or-less original text, with good success: Posthumus became one of his star roles.[14] Garrick rearranged some scenes; in particular, he shortened Imogen's burial scene and the entire fifth act, omitting the dream of Posthumus. The production was highly praised.

The play entered the Romantic era with John Philip Kemble's company in 1801.[15] Kemble's productions made use of lavish spectacle and scenery; one critic noted that during the bedroom scene, the bed was so large that Jachimo all but needed a ladder to view Imogen in her sleep.[16] Kemble added a dance to Cloten's comic wooing of Imogen. In 1827, his brother Charles mounted an antiquarian production at Covent Garden; it featured costumes designed after the descriptions of the ancient British by such writers as Julius Caesar and Diodorus Siculus.

William Charles Macready mounted the play several times between 1837 and 1842.[17] At the Theatre Royal, Marylebone, an epicene production was staged with Mary Warner, Fanny Vining, Anna Cora Mowatt, and Edward Loomis Davenport.

In 1864, as part of the celebrations of Shakespeare's birth, Samuel Phelps performed the title role at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Helena Faucit returned to the stage for this performance.

The play was also one of Ellen Terry's last performances with Henry Irving at the Lyceum in 1896. Terry's performance was widely praised, though Irving was judged an indifferent Iachimo. Like Garrick, Irving removed the dream of Posthumus; he also curtailed Iachimo's remorse and attempted to render Cloten's character consistent. A review in the Athenaeum compared this trimmed version to pastoral comedies such as As You Like It. The set design, overseen by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, was lavish and advertised as historically accurate, though the reviewer for the time complained of such anachronisms as gold crowns and printed books as props.[18]

Similarly lavish but less successful was Margaret Mather's production in New York in 1897. The sets and publicity cost $40,000, but Mather was judged too emotional and undisciplined to succeed in a fairly cerebral role.

Barry Jackson staged a modern dress production for the Birmingham Rep in 1923, two years before his influential modern dress Hamlet.[19] Walter Nugent Monck brought his Maddermarket Theatre production to Stratford in 1946, inaugurating the post-war tradition of the play.

London saw two productions in the 1956 season. Michael Benthall directed the less successful production, at The Old Vic. The set design by Audrey Cruddas was notably minimal, with only a few essential props. She relied instead on a variety of lighting effects to reinforce mood; actors seemed to come out of darkness and return to darkness. Barbara Jefford was criticised as too cold and formal for Imogen; Leon Gluckman played Posthumus, Derek Godfrey Iachimo, and Derek Francis Cymbeline. Following Victorian practice, Benthall drastically shortened the last act.[20]

By contrast, Peter Hall's production at the Shakespeare Memorial presented nearly the entire play, including the long-neglected dream scene (although a golden eagle designed for Jupiter turned out too heavy for the stage machinery and was not used).[21] Hall presented the play as a distant fairy tale, with stylised performances. The production received favourable reviews, both for Hall's conception and, especially, for Peggy Ashcroft's Imogen.[22] Richard Johnson played Posthumus, and Robert Harris Cymbeline. Iachimo was played by Geoffrey Keen, whose father Malcolm had played Jachimo with Ashcroft at the Old Vic in 1932.[23]

Hall's approach attempted to unify the play's diversity by means of a fairy-tale topos. The next major Royal Shakespeare Company production, in 1962, went in the opposite direction. Working on a set draped with heavy white sheets, director William Gaskill employed Brechtian alienation effects, to mixed critical reviews. Bernard Levin complained that the bare set deprived the play of necessary scenic splendor.[24] The acting, however, was widely praised. Vanessa Redgrave as Imogen was often compared favourably to Ashcroft; Eric Porter was a success as Jachimo, as was Clive Swift as Cloten. Patrick Allen was Posthumus, and Tom Fleming played the title role.

A decade later, John Barton's 1974 production for the RSC (with assistance from Clifford Williams) featured Sebastian Shaw in the title role, Tim Pigott-Smith as Posthumus, Ian Richardson as Jachimo, and Susan Fleetwood as Imogen. Charles Keating was Cloten. As with contemporary productions of Pericles, this one used a narrator (Cornelius) to signal changes in mood and treatment to the audience. Robert Speaight disliked the set design, which he called too minimal, but he approved the acting.[25]

In 1980, David Jones revived the play for the RSC; the production was in general a disappointment, although Judi Dench as Imogen received reviews that rivalled Ashcroft's. Ben Kingsley played Jachimo; Roger Rees was Posthumus. In 1987, Bill Alexander directed the play in The Other Place (later transferring to the Pit in London's Barbican Centre) with Harriet Walter playing Imogen, David Bradley as Cymbeline and Nicholas Farrell as Posthumus.

At the Stratford Festival, the play was directed in 1970 by Jean Gascon and in 1987 by Robin Phillips. The latter production, which was marked by much-approved scenic complexity, featured Colm Feore as Jachimo, and Martha Burns as Imogen. The play was again at Stratford in 2005, directed by David Latham. A large medieval tapestry unified the fairly simple stage design and underscored Latham's fairy-tale inspired direction.

At the new Globe Theatre in 2001, a cast of six (including Abigail Thaw, Mark Rylance, and Richard Hope) used extensive doubling for the play. The cast wore identical costumes even when in disguise, allowing for particular comic effects related to doubling (as when Cloten attempts to disguise himself as Posthumus.)[26]

There have been some well-received major theatrical productions including 1998's Public Theater production in New York City directed by Andrei Șerban. Cymbeline was also performed in Cambridge in October 2007 in a production directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, who sought to re-capture the essence of the play as a story narrative, and in November 2007 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The play was included in the 2013 repertory season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In 2004 & 2014, the Hudson Shakespeare Company of New Jersey produced two distinct versions of the play. The 2004 production, directed by Jon Ciccarelli, embraced the fairy tale/Disney aspect of the story and produced a colorful version with wicked step mothers, fiesty princesses and a campy Iachimo. The 2014 version, directed by Rachel Alt, went in a completely opposite direction and placed the action on ranch in the American old west. The Queen was a southern bell married to a rancher with Imogen as high society girl in love with the cowhand Posthumous.

In a 2007 Cheek by Jowl production, Tom Hiddleston doubled as Posthumus and Cloten.[27][28]

In 2013, Samir Bhamra directed the play for Phizzical Productions[29] with six actors playing multiple parts for a UK national tour. The cast[30] included Sophie Khan Levy as Innojaan, Adam Youssefbeygi, Tony Hasnath, Liz Jadav and Robby Khela. The production was set in the souks of Dubai and the Bollywood film industry during the 1990s communal riots and received acclaim from reviewers[31] and academics[32] alike.


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