Cymbeline - Lyric Hammersmith
On the way back to Brighton I bumped into Simon Fanshawe who told me about his brief time as a theatre critic. He had been sent to Stratford to see some Shakespeare and after the performance had gone to the Swan Hotel – an awful half-timbered lodging, where he was given one of their themed rooms – Malvolio as it happened, the maligned Puritan from Twelfth Night. Unhappy with the room, which was at the back, he went back to reception and asked t be moved to the front of the hotel. The receptionist was a little ‘peeved’ but gave him a new room. When he arrived it was Tatania, Queen of the Fairies!
Anyhow, Cymbeline at the Lyric, Hammersmith. First the theatre. I really don’t like this place. The theatre bar is cold and listless and the theatre has a dark and depressing feel. This wasn’t helped by the idiot behind me who proceeded to snack, or should I say gorge, an entire picnic of sweets, fruit and sandwiches throughout the performance. I could take no more, turned and said ‘Give it a rest will you’. He replied ‘would you like one and offered me a sweet’!
Anyhow, Cymbeline. What does one make of a play that flits between two countries and includes a visit from the god Jupiter. The plot is as trite as one can imagine and no amount of programme notes, warbling on about childhood memories, can redeem a weak play, weakly resurrected in a modern guise. Knee high gave it their best shot, but talented storytellers as they are, base metal can’t be turned into dramatic gold. I did like the band. They were perched on a balcony stage a la Globe and the vocals were edgy. Interactions with the audience were good and this could have been the basis of something rather interesting, as a critique of Shakespeare’s poor plotting and odd storylines. In this sense, for all its toy cars, dossers and dangers, it was a strained effort.
One has to ask whether a play, which is deemed too old-fashioned and opaque to present in it’s original Shakespearian language, should be resurrected in modern prose. As the plot is hopelessly crude and complex, there seems little point.
26 January 2007