March 2nd, 2008

The BBC Cymbeline (1983)

A staid production- with rather lovely visuals based on the work of 17th century artists. Frans Hals and Vermeer predominate, the Le Nain brothers get a look in, Cloten has been dressed by Velasquez.

It's as if the producer had said, "This is a wild, wild thing; let's tame it".

Helen Mirren's Imogen is too passive for my taste. Robert Lindsay plays Iachimo as a dangerous smoothie. Michael Pennington's Posthumus is soft-spoken and affecting.

Certain key moments are quite badly fudged. The scenes in the cave are cut to the point where they barely make emotional sense. "Fear No more" becomes a musical interlude (even though the text explicity states it should be spoken not sung) with the brothers obviously lip-synching.  The transition into Posthumus' dream is so abrupt as to be bewildering; if I hadn't read the play I'd have been wondering who the hell these people were.  Jupiter- beautifully voiced by the great Michael Hordern- should have been more clearly identified as the anomalous supernatural being he is; gods- even 17th century gods- do not wear tights and ruffs- and you don't win at Shakespeare by being embarrassed at his flights of fancy. Show this producer (Elijah Moshinsky) a coup de theatre and he winces.   

The last scene- with its reunions and reconciliations- is so moving I had tears in my eyes.  Shakespeare is really out on the edge here; nudge him and he'll tumble into absurdity. A very fine cast makes sure this doesn't happen.