Phizzical’s re-imagination of Cymbeline continues to receive excellent reviews as it performs at 22 venues in an extraordinary 51-dates national tour. Presented in association with Belgrade Theatre, Cymbeline is described as a remarkable take on Shakespeare’s rarely produced problem play that is performed by a talented cast.
A small selection of press and academic reviews are below:
“This is Cymbeline as you’ve never seen it before. Shakespeare’s drama, with its late play theme of loss and resurrection/restoration, remains intact; indeed several of this super cast’s set-piece speeches are among the glories of a visceral, involving evening.
This Cymbeline takes place in the souk and the slums of Mumbai, and in soon-to-be sky-scrapered Dubai. And its hero is a Bollywood film mogul.
There are explosive, obsessive, indecent, ugly moments: the astute beheading of Nicholas Gauci’s Cloten – he also plays Cymbeline, so we imbibe contrasts, good/rotten, hopeful/desolate, elevated/base – moves Phizzical’s Cymbeline into the regions of Titus Andronicus.
Tenderness (mesmerising Robby Khela), Miranda-like innocence (Sophie Khan Levy’s Innojaan/Imogen), remorse (Tony Hasnath’s athletic Yakim/Iachimo, a role immortalised by the late Max Adrian), are expressively captured.
This cast swaps roles with skill. Cymbeline’s abducted little boys, Guiderius and Arviragus (Girdhar – Hasnath again – and Khela’s Ravi, now upper teens, metamorphose with alacrity into rapacious villain and Plautian comic servant. Khela sets the tragic-comic tone: diffident, loyal, clinging.
Liz Jadav’s Bela (a female Belisarius, nurturing ‘her’ boys like Romulus’ she-wolf) is up there with Helen Mirren’s celluloid Prospera. Likewise Khan-Levy’s shy boy Fidele has the pathos of Beethoven’s Fidelio-Leonora.
Go for the fights and eloquent movement; go for the haunting music mantras. Above all, for the insight these terrific stage actors offer.”
“It is clear from the start that this is no ordinary production… It’s a meeting of cultures that defines the action”
“Shakespeare’s national myth has become a comment on the enduring significance of Indian Partition… Cymbeline is a world away from the unity and structure of Shakespeare’s earlier work. It is a mixture of tones and styles very like the diverse cultural references which the company has brought to bear on it. It was this chaos that the company’s approach seemed calculated to repeat.”
“Cymbeline is now a Bollywood mogul and his step-son a super-star. The Roman army becomes a mafia gang akin to the ‘D-Company’ of notorious crime-boss Dawood Ibrahim. And most dramatically, the company has changed the significance of the central romance.”
“The cast provides a subtle rendering of their Bollywood inflected Shakespearean characters, primarily through their deft physicality.”
“Tony Hasnath should be commended on his menacing and magnetic portrayal of Yakim. In one memorable scene, he pulls, slides and slithers his way around the sleeping Innojaan weaving his treacherous plan.”
“The actor with the most impressive repertoire of characters is Robby Khela, who inhabits the personae of servant, bad boy, and wild young princeling with ease, good humour and flashes of tenderness.”
“The red and white sari Sophie Levy Khan wears as Innojaan during the opening scene gestures towards the Hindu understanding of red as the colour of purity and marriage, and white as the colour of mourning. Innojaan’s situation as a new bride, saddened by her husband’s absence is summarised in her garment and sets the tone for the rest of the play.”
“The understated costuming was complimented by the simple but efficient set. It leaves enough to the imagination of the audience, while also creating the wide range of locations required for the performance. ”
“this remarkable take on Cymbeline”
“…leading exponent of Asian theatre with a commitment to engaging new audiences… Phizzical have breathed new life into one of Shakespeare’s lesser-performed plays by giving it a Bollywood twist”
“…Samir Bhamra has found a personal connection in the appealing plot of Cymbeline and delivered a production with some utterly memorable moments.”
“The obvious Bollywood touches are a delight and the frenetic end that ensures we get the whole story in little over two hours…”
“The cast of six play many roles and do a fine job, with Sophie Khan Levy, a delight as Innojaan and a name to remember – and Tony Hasnath superbly energetic in his four personalities.”
“…a quick-witted and beautifully dressed tale of crossed wires and confused identities from the strong Leicester cast.”
“Lovers in arms, Innojaan (Sophie Khan Levy) and banished husband Sherruddin (Adam Youssefbeygi) were the strongest performers in the traditional Shakespeare corner: earnest, emotive, convincing.”
“Samir Bhamra’s artistic direction of Cymbeline, one of the playwright’s lesser-known works, was clever and multi-layered.”
“…this makes two and a half hours of witty, and original, entertainment. ”
“Happily the injection of things Indian and Arabian works better than one might imagine, and a highly entertaining evening is had by all.
The text is well spoken by everyone so that the language is allowed to sparkle; a line like “Let boldness be my friend” deserves to get through, and it does. The “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun” dirge is, rightly, kept.
With only two females and four males there’s a lot of doubling/trebling up, but the acting is solid. Tony Hasnath is a splendid bad boy Yakim in leather trousers; and Liz Jadav as the wicked but fetching stepmother Malika is excellent. The scene where she works her erotic wiles on the servant Pisanwa (Robby Khela) makes a splendid moment; Sherrudin’s (Adam Youssefbeygi) major soliloquy is very good.”
“Phizzical’s production ably directed by Samir Bhamra re-locates the narrative to the home of Bollywood, which pedals equally fantastical plots. Thus the Bard and Bollywood become strange bedfellows in a production that fizzes with energy, charm and imagination.”
“…it has the glorious language of Shakespeare, judiciously pruned to fit two and a bit hours. Some of the locations are richly evoked : the temple, the bar in Dubai particularly when a brass object becomes an unsuspecting fountain! The company which has a strong tradition of movement uses this effectively, particularly in the fight sequences. Tony Hasnath is brilliant in a comedic scene of a sword-fight without a sword. The sound score supports the action moving forward and cuing it like a Disney cartoon strip.”
“Robby Khela gives a highly entertaining performance as the charmingly cheeky servant Pisanwa and effortlessly transforms his performance to adapt to the other characters he is responsible for playing.”
“Tony Hasnath as Yakim is the perfect fit for the typical sexy, Shakespearian bad guy, and despite appearing to have been sewn into his leather trousers, uses every inch of the stage to exaggerate his slick performance.”
“Stealing the show however, and playing his own step-son is Nicholas Gauci as Cymbeline/Cloten. His performance as Cloten is akin to that of a Bollywood John Barrowman and he manages to ooze sex appeal whilst behaving in an absurd, comedy camp manner. His monologues are invigorating and his mannerisms hilarious.”