What's Happening

Other Cymbelines: YXE Shakespeare Lab

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Oct 22, 2020 at 07:36 PM in Other Cymbelines

The second installment of our Other Cymbelines series features a stripped-down production of Cymbeline  by the YXE Shakespeare Lab in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, as told by project leader Skye Brandon.

If you wish to suggest another production of Cymbeline for us to feature, please be in touch via our contact page, or on Twitter or Instagram @ecocymbeline!

YXE Shakespeare Lab’s Cymbeline in Saskatoon, SK, Canada, January-February 2015

Other Cymbelines: YXE Shakespeare Lab

Cymbeline in the Anthropocene: What is unique about your theatre company and its approach to Shakespeare in performance? 

Skye Brandon: YXE Shakespeare Lab is an artist collective that I got started in Saskatoon when my family and I moved back to Saskatchewan in 2014. I knew that, even if I ended up being asked to join the established festival, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, in the summer, two Shakespeare productions over the summer months would not sustain me. And one of the things that I had loved the most about working with the Stratford Festival in Ontario was getting to work on some of the plays that don’t get done as often. Cymbeline is a great example. So, with the Lab deciding to focus on the less-often produced plays, Cymbeline quickly became the group’s first attempt. Not only is it one of my favourite plays, but it had never been produced in Saskatchewan before.

Other Cymbelines: YXE Shakespeare Lab


CA: Where did your performance take place? Was it indoors or outside? 

SB: With no money to speak of, we were going to be relying on the text to carry us, which was a fantastic challenge. I wanted to see if the story could sustain throughout (which of course it did) without the bells and whistles (since we couldn’t afford them anyway), so we had no set (with the exception of the trunk appearing in Imogen’s chambers) and very few props. We used contemporary clothing with specific pieces to denote characters (the crown for Cymbeline, certain hats for Guiderius and Arviragus, etc.), a modern soundscape, a flexible lighting design (based on a cool Britain, and a warmer Italy), and only six actors. Our venue was The Refinery in Saskatoon, which is a lovely intimate space that we configured into a thrust stage. It allowed us to quickly move from scene to scene using multiple entrances and exits while having the audience extremely close to the action.

And although we used contemporary clothing for costumes, we did avoid using things like jeans or suits, and relied on colour selection to guide us with the characters. We were not setting the play in a contemporary time period, after all, but simply using the clothing that was available to us. By using musical bridges in only very specific spots we were able to build a momentum with the narrative, and along with some editing of the script we were always able to stay ahead of the audience without having to rush.

One of my favourite memories of the production was getting to talk with various audience members who had never seen the play before, after they came out of the theatre. They would often exclaim how great the play is and wonder why they had never had a chance to see it before. One gentleman even shared that he always found it a bit of a mashup of plot points on the page but was surprised by how well it all worked when he finally got to see it performed. I guess that’s why we do them, right?

Other Cymbelines: YXE Shakespeare Lab