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Cymbeline, the King of Britain, is angry that his daughter Imogen has chosen a poor (but worthy) man for her husband. So he banishes Posthumus, who goes to fight for Rome. Imogen (dressed as a boy) goes in search of her husband, who meanwhile has boasted to his pal Iachimo that Imogen would never betray him. And Iachimo's determined to prove him wrong.Written by
'Cymbeline' is one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays and that is evident in a very scant available video/DVD competition of film and stage productions. It is a shame, because while it is nowhere near among Shakespeare's best it does deserve to be performed more and it is more down to being difficult to stage, with one of Shakespeare's most complicated (sometimes over-complicated) plots, rather than the play's quality.
Although the BBC Television Shakespeare is not a series where all the productions of all of Shakespeare's plays, its interest point and one of the main reasons to check the productions out (especially when in a few of the plays the production in question is the only one available), are consistently great, for me a vast majority of the productions are well done to excellent. Found this production of 'Cymbeline' to be very good and despite the play being one of Shakespeare's lesser known the production is one of the better ones of the series. It's one of the more consistently and better cast productions, in a good way, and is one of the more visually striking. Personally did not find it dull, even if not every scene works.
Will start with what didn't quite work. Do agree that the Posthumous dream sequence was clumsily done and spoiled by unintentional silliness and also that there was some occasional strange editing.
Michael Pennington tries too hard as Posthumous and it comes over as very over-the-top and wild, especially at the end, and Robert Lindsay doesn't look as though he is having much fun and struggles being sinister and cunning as the Iago of the play Iachimo.
There is so much that works though. Although not exactly authentic to Shakespearean period, the production is still a treat visually and it feels coherent. A lot of work went into the sets and that is obvious, like a previous reviewer the mountain snow set really caught my eyes in a good way. Elijah Moshinsky returns to form here after disappointing so badly in the series' production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (one of its weakest). A couple of missteps here and there, especially the dream sequence mentioned above, but he does make the drama gripping, with the drama being genuinely poignant and the conflict has enough tension.
Furthermore, the rendition of "Fear No More" is absolutely beautiful and brought me to tears. It helps that it is a beautiful song with aching text already, but it is even more special when it's performed well. Shakespeare's writing still shines brightly. Excepting Pennington and Lindsay, the cast are more than strong and still stand by my thoughts of it being one of the better cast productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare series. Helen Mirren is a heart-wrenching Imogen, and that quality is matched particularly in the sensitive turn of Michael Gough. Richard Johnson is suitably cantankerous in the title role and Claire Bloom chills the blood as the queen in another one of the production's standout performances. John Kane and Paul Jesson are very good in their roles here, particularly Jesson, and Michael Hordern is luxury casting as Jupiter.
In conclusion, very good production of an in my mind undeservedly lesser known play. 8/10
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