Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 17, 2009


Arts Theatre, London, England
through October 24, 2009
by Emily List

In 2006, England's National Youth Theatre celebrated "50 Years of Giving Youth a Voice." Three years later, that voice resonates strongly in the NYT's latest production to date, Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Directed by Brendan O'Hea, the cast members (all of whom are under age 21) expertly handle a play that lends itself to the melodramatic. Imogen, the play's heroine, goes through several ordeals before being united with her true love, Posthumus. She is unjustly accused of being unfaithful, threatened with death, forced by circumstance into the guise of a boy and unsuspectingly drugged in a plot laid by her wicked stepmother, the Queen. Playing the part of Imogen, Rosie Sansom carries the audience through this unlikely chain of events with a consistently tight grasp of Imogen's strong-willed character. Providing a marked constrast to Sansom's serious-minded Imogen is Will Edelston in the role of the cocky prince, Clotten. Edelston plays the oblivious fool with flair and with his servants, provides welcome comic relief.

As a whole, the cast handles the themes of jealousy, treachery, betrayal and war with gentle consideration and cunning. The Queen, played by Catriona Cahill, exemplifies the sentiment of Shakespeare's Richard III that one "may smile and smile, and be a villain." Decked in gothic fishnet tights and a black-corseted ball-gown, Cahill flits gracefully about the stage, plotting murder with piercingly witty asides aimed at the audience. Luke McEwan brings a quiet dignity to the role of Cymbeline, playing a man caught between his own emotions and the duties he must perform as King.

The supporting players add color to the performance, doubling in their roles as musicians, dancers and martial artists. In a surprisingly lighthearted moment, a band of court musicians called on by Clotten to woo Imogen, rebelliously breaks out into a blue-grass style jam session. The creative playfulness, depth of character and mastery of a complicated plotline demonstrated by the cast of Cymbeline furthers the argument that young artists should be seen and heard.

One of Spotlight's reviewers is out of the country, but we put her to work. Emily List is in the Masters program at UMass studying Theatre and Media for Development. The play was performed at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square, London.