Thursday, 31 May 2012


Barbican Theatre
30 May 2012
The Ninagawa Company

Cymbeline is a weird (and wonderful) play.  Mix Japanese painting, Roman symbolism and periwigged 18th century Viennese musicians (all in the same scene) and it is weirder still.  Then play it all in Japanese.

I'm not sure, had this been a British production, whether the audience would have given it quite the ovation it received last night, except that, despite the promiscuous shuffling of eras and idioms (which after all Shakespeare does himself in the play), this felt like a remarkably faithful rendering.  It managed to do what it is thought Shakespeare was trying to do: to marry comedy and tragedy.  There is something almost Dickensian about Cymbeline, in its cast of grotesques, heights of feeling, coincidences and sheer energy.

The Japanese cast projected wonderfully.  Even my aid-less ears could hear everything.  Unfortunately I could understand nothing and could not see the surtitles at all.  So I took notice of the delightful, attentive acting of the attendant lords, not least the movement of their hands.

How was it, I have been asked.  "It was very long.  And in Japanese," I have replied, perhaps rather facetiously, suggesting that piety rather than pleasure kept me in my seat.  But the truth is I am glad to have seen it.

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