I saw the two plays with Oliver in Stratford!

I take a look to the web often, to see if there are news about Oliver, so I was very happy noticing two tweets by the theatre expert Terry Paddock last January, reporting that he was chosen for two Shakespeare’s plays at the same time, as often happens at the RSC!

cymbeline-cast  king-lear-cast

He was going to play two opposite characters, one good person and one villain, if we consider them under our modern point of view.

I booked as soon as I could, I wouldn’t have missed the occasion!

It’s hard to say if I was more excited to see Oliver playing Edgar, my favourite character in King Lear, or Iachimo, the sneaky Italian – a fellow countryman of mine then – who tries to seduce the chaste Innogen. I can say he performed both the men in a wonderful way!


I was new to Cymbeline, so I bought the book and read it. I know that isn’t very popular to say so, but I immediately liked the cheeky Iachimo, more than Posthumus, the one supposed to be Innogen’s soulmate. I have the impression that Shakespeare himself didn’t root for this love story, while the sneaky bedroom scene is maybe the best one he wrote in the whole play.

I don’t like Cymbeline either, another selfish king in the Bard’s bibliography, who causes his own ruin, as often happens in Shakespeare, but I found Imogen (here changed in Innogen) lovely and bold, as well as her servant Pisanio, Belarius and his two sons, who are actually the king’s sons. I found the gender changes in the RSC production intriguing.

I also liked the idea of seeing the two plays in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, on the year of the 400th anniversary of his death. I never visited the city before, I found it and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre gorgeous and I miss them now!

I saw King Lear on September 7 night, it was dark and fascinating, I loved Oliver’s muscolar performance, which reminded me of a figure from a painting by Caravaggio (later, reading the programme, I found out I was right, as it mentions the painter), with an impressive trasformation of his voice and movements, passing from Edgar to Tom and then to Edgar again. He’s an innocent, boyish soul at the beginning, he becomes a man at the end of the story, drawing his sword to fight Oswald first and then his brother Edmund, and Oliver plays him in a very bold way.

Particularly moving was to see Edgar sad for the fate of Lear and his own father. But there were plenty of wonderful performances all around, a great work by the ensemble, with my preference for the three Glouchester, Kent, the Fool and Goneril. And the second part, when the King and his fellows went crazy, was the best one.

The set design and the soundtrack made it very effective. I felt the loneliness and desperation of the protagonists, like if I was in the cold moor myself. Sitting at the side of the stage helped, it was like being inside the action.

Talking about  Cymbeline, which I saw the day after, at the matinee, I was a bit worried it could be a disappointing  production, reading some bad comments and reviews on Twitter. Apparently we saw a totally different show, because I found it funny and entertaining and I thought that, despite the whole cast did well, this play belonged to Innogen and Iachimo! Bethan Cullinane and Oliver stole the show with their dynamic performances!  It’s very funny when Iachimo takes note of what he sees inside the bedroom. Not talking about the disco dance in Rome, when he dances together with some transvestites.

And Cloten is not very likable in the book, but Marcus Griffiths played him in a very nice way! The serenata to Innogen is a brilliant moment. Maybe what is disturbing is the constant danger of rape along the story, but the cast temper it with irony.

I met Oliver at the stage door after both the two performances, I said him congratulations for the plays.

When I told him I was Italian, on 7 September, he replied he hoped I could find his Italian in Cymbeline good. He asked me which part of Italy I came from and explained me that Iachimo is from the city of Siena, while I thought he was from Rome.

The day after, meeting him again, he told me that he hoped his Italian was okay and looked glad that I thought so, I can’t talk for French people and I didn’t study Latin, but I think that he did well. Actually, he spoke the best Italian in the cast and I told him so. I have to admit I didn’t understand some lines from the others actors in Rome and I had to read subtitles in English on screen.

I wonder where he did learn Italian, he got a good accent for languages, but I didn’t ask him.  I rather told him that I wanted to see him in both the shows when the season was announced and he replied that Edgar and Iachimo are two very different characters to play, but very stimulating.

I would have liked to ask Oliver how he alternates two different performances day after day, but I left him with his acting secrets. I wrote him some notes in a short letter, though. Now I’m blushing, wondering what did he think! He also asked me when I was going back to Italy and if I was going to see other plays in London. I replied that I had booked for Pride And Prejudice and Groundhog Day, he told me he was hoping to see GDay, too, once in London.

I also got the occasion to ask for the autograph to the lovely Bethan Cullinane, I told her I loved her performance and that she and Oliver were my favorite in the cast. She said me smiling that they went to the acting school together, so I told her that I knew that last Summer they made together Young Bloods, a RADA play about Waterloo, too.

They both cheered my day up! I was there just for a short holiday, it’s a pity I could see each play only once, I would need to focus on details! Who knows if I can make the London season at the Barbican, but looks like tickets are selling fast! So I hope that the RSC will edit the two plays on DVD, next year!


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