For its sophomore production, the Manila Shakespeare Company is staging the Bard’s “Cymbeline” starting today, Aug. 5, at Pineapple Lab in Makati.
“It has a kind of fairy tale element that we think people will enjoy,” says Nicanor “Nic” Campos, the group’s founding artistic director.
He’s the first to say that this particular play is not well known. “It’s rarely done abroad, even in England. It’s nowhere near as famous as ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ In fact, it may very well be Shakespeare’s least famous, certainly here, and maybe only exceeded abroad by ‘Pericles.’”
Why do it then? “That’s the challenge, the interest, the thrill,” he says.
The group’s maiden production was “Romeo and Juliet,” staged in 2015 with Nel Gomez (Twin Bill Theater’s “My Name is Asher Lev” and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas’ “Angry Christ”) as Romeo and Rachel Coates as Juliet.
“Contrary to what may be popular belief, I think the less expectations you have of Shakespeare, the richer your experience may be,” says Campos.
“Cymbeline” may be seen as a compilation of Shakespeare’s “greatest hits,” he adds. King Cymbeline’s new wife schemes to kill him and his daughter Imogen (who has secretly married Posthumus). And that’s just the beginning. Aside from elopement, a father feeling betrayed by his daughter and a plot against the king’s life, the play contains many of Shakespeare’s “signature” story devices used in his previous works.
There are separated siblings, a medical professional who provides poison, spying and hiding in bedrooms, fashion accessories as tools of deception, a woman cross-dressing as a young man, more disguises, mistaken identities, duels, an approaching enemy army—you get the idea.
“You could say it’s excessively stuffed and convoluted… It draws from all over Shakespeare’s genres. It’s a bit of a mess, in fact. And that’s life, isn’t it? That’s exactly why I like it a lot. I like stuffed stories. I like challenging audiences to focus on several different plot threads,” says Campos.
Recycled plot devices or not, “Only this play has the different strains combined in this particular way. It creates an alchemy, a magic. And with the help of some judicious cuts and simplifications, we hope to offer that magic to the audience possibly for the first time [in Manila].”
Also, “Part of our mission, as well as of those who translate and adapt Shakespeare, is to remind or reveal to audiences that, in different hands, you won’t have the same experience twice of the same play. And that can be so rewarding.”
The cast includes Gabby Padilla (Repertory Philippines’ “A Little Princess”) as Imogen and Rico del Rosario as Posthumus, along with Christine Cojuangco as the Queen and Gio Gahol (Peta’s “Care Divas”) as Iachimo.
Campos plays the title character in addition to directing.
The set and costume design are by Likhain Productions. This production will be available to tour schools and other venues for the rest of the year. —CONTRIBUTED
“Cymbeline” runs Aug. 5-20 at Pineapple Lab, 6071 Palma St., Makati. Visit www.facebook.com/ManilaShakespeareCompany.