2016 Cymbeline

(back to Stage)

Cymbeline poster

After the previews from 29 April:

“[…] I can only imagine how nerve racking going on stage in those circumstances must be, but the central performances were excellent, especially Bethan Cullinane as Innogen, and Oliver Johnstone as Iachimo – genuinely chilling. […]”


“[…] coupled with powerful, nuanced performances, particularly from Bethan Cullinane, Hiran Abeysekera and Oliver Johnstone, produces a challenging, compelling and moving interpretation. […]  Oliver Johnstone is a compelling silver-tongued Iachimo. […]”


After the Press Night on Tuesday 10 May:
  • dailymail.co.uk Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail – 2 stars

“[…] The most successful scene is the bedroom moment when intruder Iachimo (Oliver Johnstone) spies on her heaving bosom. Shakespeare’s verse is here allowed to rule unchallenged by visual stunts. […]”


  • thestage.co.uk Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Natasha Tripney, with production photos – 3 stars

“[…] Oliver Johnstone makes an excellent Iachimo  […]”


“[…] with some long scenes with only two characters (such as the scene where Iachimo is in Innogen’s bedroom as she sleeps; one of the best scenes in the play, because there’s no cruft, just great acting and great language), […] Oliver Johnstone as Iachimo was also excellent both as the full-of-himself Italian come to seduce Innogen, and the contrite prisoner at the end of the play.[…]”


  • whatsonstage.com Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Michael Davies, with production photos – 4 stars

“[…] The most effective performance, however, comes from Oliver Johnstone as the Italian dandy whose wager against Innogen’s chastity sparks a destructive chain of events that powers much of the action. Johnstone does Machiavellian machinations and heart-rending remorse equally impressively and turns his character Iachimo from a devious plot device into a rich source of drama. […]”


“[…] There are fabulous, stand-out performances from Oliver Johnstone as the slimy and slightly terrifying Roman creepster Iachimo,  […]”


“[…] with Oliver Johnstone suitably sinuous as the snake-in-the-grass Iachimo. […]”


  • theguardian.com Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Michael Billington – 3 stars

“[…] Oliver Johnstone’s Iachimo seems tormented by lust in his nocturnal spying on the sleeping Innogen […]”


  • telegraph.co.uk Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Dominic Cavendish – 4 stars

“[…] This is an evening of betrayal and mistrust: thanks to the machinations of Oliver Johnstone’s fantastically slimey Iachimo, Hiran Abeysekera’s Posthumus comes to doubt the fidelity of the Queen’s fair daughter Innogen […]”


“[…] Oliver Johnstone was also extremely impressive as the scheming Iachimo – and the scene where he steals around the sleeping Innogen was the most moving of the night (although probably for all the wrong reasons). His remorse and repentance feel true – he is more complex than we are initially led to believe. […]”

I asked him on Twitter what did he mean with “all the wrong reasons”, so he explained:

Well, Iachimo is supposedly a baddy – but I found OJ’s acting and speaking both profound & beautiful.Also: we should feel uncomfortable at such abuse – but his reticence actually makes him quite moral in a way. What makes him such a good baddy is that he plays the role with so much heart.


  • livetheatreuk.co.uk Wednesday 11 May 2016, by Stephen Collins (long, good comment on Oliver’s performance)

“[…] The most assured and complete performance comes from Oliver Johnstone who makes Iachimo a cad who causes trouble and then comes to repent his wicked ways. It’s a tough tightrope. He has to be skin-crawling when he invades Innogen’s bedchamber and steals from her, jewellery and intimate secrets, but not so much that he can never be forgiven. Johnstone negotiates this especially well – the scene does not feel horrific, but it does seem utterly wrong. Having effortlessly established Iachimo as louche pretty-boy lothario, Johnstone has laid the foundation for the scene. This Iachimo is not malevolent, but deluded, especially when it comes to women. Johnstone emphasises this by stalking Innogen in her bed while shirtless. At once, he is both vulnerable and odiously cocky. This groundwork means that, later in the play, when Posthumous almost kills him, his position is not entirely without sympathy. Aware he has grievously offended both Posthumous and Innogen by his lies about her chastity, he confesses his cruel infamy in the final scene. Johnstone plays this beautifully. He seems like a lost child desperate to be forgiven. It’s a thoughtful performance full of brio and pathos, demonstrating clearly how a boastful bet can claim a reputation. Johnstone’s mastery of the language is excellent and his voice as muscular and flexible as his lithe physique. […] There is no obvious chemistry between the two, though, and this is emphasised by the sparks that fly between Johnstone and Cullinane when Iachimo tires, but fails, to woo her. […] Strangely though, he seems to have more chemistry with Johnstone’s Iachimo than Cullinane’s Innogen and, even more strangely, this seems to work well, cementing the notion of a triangle between the three underpinning their actions. […]”


“[…] and Oliver Johnstone gives a nice interpretation of an Italian Lothario, as he attempts to seduce Innogen, leading to a traditional interpretation of the bedroom scene – very welcome among everything else that’s going on. […]”


“[…] Honourable mentions go to Oliver Johnstone as the sumptuous Italian suitor Iachimo, whose charismatic stage presence and the fine balance between cockiness and vulnerability produces a mesmeric performance. […]”


“[…] For the traditional values of Shakespearean acting, Marcus Griffiths as a strutting Cloten and Oliver Johnston(e) as a nobly repentant Iachimo, stand out for their stage presence and verse speaking. […]”


“[…] Quite a few others impressed too  […] Oliver Johnstone’s Iachimo – anger, angst and eventually humility. […]”


“[…] great showings from Oliver Johnstone as flashy wide boy Iachimo […]”

“[…] Similarly, Oliver Johnstone is a modern embodiment of evil in Iachimo, not a stereotype. The more you think about what he is up to the worse it is, but you can begin to understand him a bit. […]”


“[…] From Rome, Oliver Johnstone makes a splendidly swaggering Iachimo, contrasting well with Hiran Abeysekera’s naïve and vulnerable Posthumus. Their scenes together are among the best moments in the production. […]”

“[…] She declines, so he asks her to take care of a chest of plate destined for the Emperor, and she agrees to keep it in her chamber. He conceals himself in the chest, and gets out while she is sleeping. He notes detail of her bedchamber, slips the bracelet from her wrist and peeps under the covers, thus seeing a mole on the underside of her breast. This is a memorable and creepy scene, and in this production taken brilliantly by Oliver Johnstone as Iachimo. […] Oliver Johnstone’s conniving Iachimo probably got our “person of the match award” against heavy competition from the two female leads and Marcus Griffiths’ Cloten. […]”

“[…]  Oliver Johnstone is wonderful in the role of Iachimo and he gives the audience a full and trusting performance[…]”


“[…]  Oliver Johnstone captures the diplomatic smoothness, clever duplicity and internal nastiness of Iachimo. […]


“[…]  Oliver Johnstones Italian (as Iachimo) was very well delivered, […]”


“[…] Realising that he can’t win over Innogen, Iachimo resorts to unsavoury tactics of sneaking into her bedroom at night to gain evidence to convince Posthumus she has been unfaithful. This scene is heavily drawn out and sees the Italian climbing over Innogen as she sleeps, looking under the covers at her naked body and being generally creepy amid overtones of sexual violence. Oliver Johnstone does well as Iachimo as he does make your skin crawl. […]”

“[…] I also thought Oliver Johnstone was a suitably treacherous Iachimo; plausible and attractive enough to gain the trust of both Posthumous and Innogen. […]”


  • uktheatre.net by Yvonne Delahaye, 29 September 2016 – after the live broadcast in cinema – one of my favourite comments on Oliver!

“[…] The most enthralling performance of the show for me though was by Oliver Johnstone as Iachimo, the Italian nobleman who sets out to deceive Posthumus.  Oliver’s commitment and intensity make him so compelling to watch and I’m sure he’s someone we’re going to hear a lot more of in the next few years. […]”


“[…] aspects which might be played for laughs elsewhere, like Iachimo’s (an excellent Oliver Johnstone) attempted seduction of Imogen, are here actually rather sinister […]”

“[…] The painfully dark scene wherein Jachimo (Oliver Johnstone) sets about to win his bet by stealing into her room hidden in a trunk and manipulating her vulnerable sleeping body is brilliantly staged with small capsules of humour thrown in to break the tension with much needed comic relief. […]”


“[…] In her confrontation with Oliver Johnstone’s excellent Iachimo, her virtue shines out. […]”


“[…] What stands out immediately are director Melly Still’s casting choices. Oliver Johnstone as Iachimo gives a stunning performance that is at once villainous and vulnerable to a degree usually reserved for portrayals of Shylock or Richard III. Johnstone manages to make the key, essentially solo, scene in Act Two in which he creeps around Innogen’s room at night humorous without losing a sinister sense of invasion. As well as this, his transition from amorous cad to apologetic coward is beautifully handled. […]”



I’m waiting for reviews of the RSC’s Winter season at the Barbican.


Here we are!

After the Press Performance on 3 November 2016:

“[…] At the centre of this Cymbeline are three gripping performances. […] Her scenes with Iachimo (Oliver Johnstone), where he stalks and surveys her bedroom are full of grim thrills. His is a near-perfect performance of the original dickhead. His smarmy charm is joyous is wittily used. […] But between them, these three bat around the best scenes with youthful vigour. […]”


“[…] There are no weak links in the cast … Oliver Johnstone is compelling as Iachimo […]”

“[…] Fortunately, the acting saves this production with versions of characters never explored before. Oliver Johnstone is one to watch as Iachimo, who could easily be played two-dimensionally; here, Iachimo is both moral and menacing, conniving but considerate. It makes his change of heart at the end all the more believable. […]”


  • timeout.com by Theo Bosanquet, November 4, 2016 – 4*

“[…] Her sappy romance with Posthumus (Hiran Abeysekera) has more than a whiff of youthful rebellion. She’s at her best in the botched wooing scenes of Oliver Johnstone’s scheming Iachimo and Marcus Griffiths’ crooning Cloten, making them among the stand-out moments of the evening. […]”

“[…] It’s the strength of the performances that really make this production, and the cast’s ability to draw out the underlying humour in every situation goes a long way to negating the flaws in the original text. Oliver Johnstone is brilliant as the suave, silver-tongued Iachimo, strutting about the stage and wearing all of his sexual potency on his sleeve. Some of the best scenes come when he focuses his scheming charm on the faithful Innogen, skilfully played by Bethan Cullinane.  […]”

“[…] the sly Iachimo, played to sleek perfection by Oliver Johnstone […]”


  • officiallondontheatre.co.uk by Lucy Rahim, November 4, 2016 – Between the five (good) reasons to see Cymbeline, I couldn’t be more agree on the number four:

“[…] It’s got a fabulous anti-hero – Oliver Johnstone’s brilliantly suave scoundrel steals the show. – Though he gets it together around Act 4, Posthumus can seem a weak-willed and irrational character. The protagonist-shaped hole is filled instead by Iachimo, the slippery tongued Italian who gains false proof of Innogen’s infidelity. Oliver Johnstone does a triumphant turn in the role, a perfect stereotype of the smooth-talking, Italian playboy, strutting around the stage in white chinos and shades. His visit to Innogen’s bedroom should really be disturbing, but Johnstone makes sympathise with his own personal struggle, rather than the highly dubious morality of his actions. You may find yourself feeling genuinely sorry for him by the end. […]”

“[…] Elsewhere there are strong performances from […] Oliver Johnstone revels in the smarmy, obsequious Iachimo who drives a wedge between Innogen and Posthumus that sets the second half of our story into action. […]”