“Is there no way for men to be, but women must be half-workers?”
Whichever way you cut it, I still find that Cymbeline is a tough play to love and it’s not for a lack of trying on my part. I struggled with it at the Sam Wanamaker earlier this year and I’ll be trying out the RSC’s version once it hits the Barbican later this month. As for now, it’s Matthew Dunster’s turn to have a go at the play, this time outside at the Globe and in keeping with the new regime, the play has been “renamed and reclaimed” as Imogen, as befits the part of Cymbeline’s daughter who has in fact twice as many lines.
Even with Maddy Hill (an unexpectedly moving Titania, among others, in Go People’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) in the title role and a wonderfully diverse ensemble incorporating a signing deaf actor among others, Imogen remained difficult. For all the contemporary gangland setting (Jonathan McGuinness’ king is now a drug lord), Imogen’s o’er-hasty marriage to the feckless Posthumus (a good Ira Mandela Siobhan) and subsequent devotion to him even as he proves himself to be a righteous cock doesn’t quite fly. That said, the energy in the show is one that proves largely irresistible as sexy shenanigans, modern sounds, and kick-ass choreo combine to memorable effect.
And you can’t help but feel that so much of Emma Rice’s reign thus far is epitomised by that final jig, even if its Dunster’s hand on the tiller here. Sticking with the theme of the production, the cast tear it up to Skepta’s Shutdown with flashing lights a-go-go and as you’ll see from the video, connect with the groundlings in a magical way that the venue just hasn’t seen before (in my experience at least). And that’s what I’ve loved about the Wonder Season, its unerring determination to shake up the old order and reminding us all – much needed in some cases – that there isn’t, nor never has been, just one way to do things. I wait with great interest to see what’s in store for next season.