Friday, December 6, 2019

Cymbeline: A Tale of Two Toms (2007)


"I think a part of the reason why Shakespeare is performed is because the words may have changed and superficially the way we live our lives may have changed but the emotions are the same. And a play like Cymbeline, it's about so many universal things that we still feel like love and loss and betrayal and jealousy and incomprehension." 

While in New York for Betrayal Broadway, I took a trip back in time to revisit Tom Hiddleston's first NYC stage performance in Cymbeline. It was the perfect double feature because both plays feature a minimalist set design so your focus is entirely on the actors. Tom performed with Cheek By Jowl at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) from May 2-12, 2007. 

The Declan Donnellan directed production featured a breakout cast of soon-to-be household names and familiar faces including Tom, Gwendoline Christie, Jodie McNee, Guy Flanagan, Laurence Spellman, and John Macmillan. Stage and costume design by Nick Ormerod. 

An evil stepmother, an invading army, a headless corpse, ghosts and a divine visit from Jupiter hurtle us towards an astonishing conclusion in this saga of politics, the supernatural and love. Lynchpin of the story is one of Shakespeare's greatest female characters, the impulsive and sensual Imogen. 

Even by Shakespearean standards Cymbeline is a play with a lot going on. It's listed as a tragedy but reads more as an absurd comedy. If you took every Shakespeare play and decided to make a movie parody - you would get Cymbeline. Forbidden romance? Check. Scheming step-mother? Check. A woman disguised as a boy? Check. Somebody dies but doesn't really die? Check. Long lost heir to the throne magically reappears? Check. A bunch of dudes fighting over a woman who has no interest in them? Check check check. 

Tom Hiddleston was on double duty playing the drastically different characters, Posthumus and Cloten. Tom went on to win an Olivier Award for his dual role. 

Posthumus: Orphan. Adopted by King Cymbeline. Secretly marries the King's daughter Imogen. Everyone reacts well... not. Banished to Italy. Reacts well... not.  

Cloten: Queen's son from a previous marriage. Wants to marry Imogen so he can become King. Shakespearean equivalent of an arrogant frat boy.
Questionable seduction tactics.  

It is uncommon for an actor to take on both roles. Tom talks about the challenge of wearing both masks:

"I tended to think that I could bring more of myself - Tom Hiddleston the actor - to Posthumus and that Cloten was some extreme character that I just had to play but Declan was absolutely insistent that Cloten had a mask and Posthumus had another mask. I, as an actor, inhabited both of those masks fully and with equal commitment. But with two people who seem to be standing side by side, their truth is different. And it's been fascinating to be inside the head of two people for whom the truth is different. The color of things look different."

Having watched the play I can definitely see the Cloten within Posthumus. Posthumus is marketed as the great romantic hero but he makes a bet on his wife and then tries to have her killed when he thinks she's been unfaithful? Er, sounds like a Cloten move to me! More on that in a minute. 

Unlike film or television, when you play multiple characters on stage you don't have the benefit of hours in a makeup chair to make each character look different. So, how can you tell them apart? The easy answer is Posthumus wears glasses and Cloten does not. 

That tiny feature takes Tom from Clark Kent to Superman. Even though both characters have the same accent, they sound different. Even though they occupy the same body, the move different. Even though they wear the same clothes, they wear them differently. This is what won Tom Hiddleston the Olivier Award. 

The play begins with the young lovers Imogen and Posthumus being torn apart by an angry mob at court. 

Before Posthumus is exiled to Italy, they exchange tokens of the love. Imogen gives him a ring. Posthumus gives her a bracelet. 

In Italy, Posthumus meets Iachimo and makes a bet that his wife would never be unfaithful. What does he wager? The ring. 

Iachimo comes back with tales of how he seduced Imogen. What proof does he bring? The bracelet. 

Meanwhile Cloten is living his best life. Cloten is the OG Loki. He enjoys being bad. Whether he's plotting to take the throne or gossiping with his friends...

...or sneaking into to Imogen's bedroom to serenade her. In the play this song and dance number is about four minutes long, and would make 'Nsync in their heyday jealous. It didn't work out to well for the Clo Bros though. I blame the song. Hark the Lark isn't exactly a mood setter. Next time try some Boyz II Men. 

So, now Posthumus decides to send a letter to Imogen so that she will meet up with him but he really plans to have her killed. Okay, that escalated quickly. Imogen escapes by disguising herself as boy. Who does she randomly stumble upon after her escape? Her long lost brothers. But she doesn't know they're her brothers. And they don't know she's their sister. They don't even know she's a female Wait, there's more. 

My boy Cloten, decides to make another attempt to woo Imogen. He gets it in his mind that she only prefers Posthumus because of his clothes so he puts on his coat to disguise himself. Oh my sweet summer child. Of course, he also just happens to stumble upon Imogen's long lost brothers who kill and behead him. Who finds the body? Imogen. And because he's wearing Posthumus's coat she believes Posthumus is dead. Seriously, Shakespeare was trolling us. 

Enter Posthumus. He arrives back in Britain as an Italian infantryman. Changes into a British uniform. And then switches to an Italian Officer's uniform. Yes he does the costume changes onstage. Who does he encounter? Iachimo. Eventually Posthumus, Iachimo, and Imogen (in disguise) all find themselves in front of King Cymbeline.

Iachimo confesses his lies. Imogen reveals herself. The war is over. Cloten and the Queen Cymbeline reunites with his long lost sons. Imogen is free to marry Posthumus now. Although why would you want to after all his bs? Sis we need to talk. Everybody is happy the end. 

Thank you to the Brooklyn Academy of Music and New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for allowing me access to their archives for this review.

Video clips from the ARTE Documentary on Cheek by Jowl's Cymbeline. Production photographs taken by Keith Pattison. You can find more information, photos, interviews, and a copy of the playtext on the Cheek by Jowl website

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sardi's Portrait Unveiling (2019)

We're hosting a fundraiser for Unicef UK to mark Tom Hiddleston's birthday. If you are able, please donate! Also, we have prizes!!! The fundraiser closes on February 10, 2019. 

December 5, 2019: 

Tom Hiddleston was honored with a portrait at Sardi's in New York City. Sardi's is famous for it's Caricatures of Broadway stars. 

The portrait is inscribed with "another bottle of Corvo Bianco" - which is a line from the infamous waiter scene in Betrayal. 

Tom's Betrayal Broadway co-stars Zawe Ashton and Eddie Arnold were also present. 

Here is Tom's speech in full (video via Leigh Scheps): 

"It has been the most extraordinary experience being here in New York, being here on Broadway. I've never done it before as you know. It's been the same for Zawe, for Charlie, and for Eddie, and for Jamie. I wish you were here for this. But maybe I'll bring him and show him the caricature later. I am so grateful to so many people in this room who have welcomed us so warmly and made the space for us, and worked so hard on making this such a wonderful experience. There are so many people to thank individually, and I have a feeling in the next four days are going to be full of individual thanks. I particularly just want to say a few words of thanks. Firstly to Bob Wankel and the Shuberts for having us at the Jacobs. I believe Bernard Jacobs has a caricature on the wall. Richard Burton, Kermit the Frog - I'm in good company. Bob thank you for many things but particularly for installing a shower. I make good use of it. Nextly, thank you to David [I couldn't make out his last name] for everything you've done in making this possible. Thank you to the Broadway League. Thank you to the American Theater Wing, and the Actors Fund who we have been working with so closely. Huge thanks, eternal thanks to the crew at the Jacobs. To Bruce [I couldn't make out the last name], and Frank Lombardi, Diane [I couldn't make out the last name]. Emma Lyles - the most professional member of our company. And thanks to Jeff, and Wendy, and Diane. And everybody really. Thank you to Emily. Emily is going home tonight so she won't be here on Sunday. And thank you to Ben. And everyone who's made this possible. Thank you to Max for making space on the wall. We've got Anthony Hopkins right here. He played my dad once upon a time. It really is a huge honor. I feel very humbled by all of this. Listening to Julie I never expected it honestly. Jamie asked me to be part of his gala and many of the actors in that gala had a relationship with Harold Pinter and worked with him personally or knew him personally. And I had only met him once. He had come to see me in a production of Othello. And simpy said afterwards, 'I never need to see Othello again.'. I think it was a compliment. But he's been a big part of my life in lots of ways. A huge inspiration for me. His noble lecture, as many of you know, is something I wear very closely. I think he crystalized and articulated the reason why so many of us are in the performing arts. Why we think theater and drama are important because it's a way of exploring our lives and are reality through art. Zawe and I turned up and did Scene 5 - the Venice Scene - and it's given birth to this extraordinary year of my life. And a year is a long time. And I know the older we get the shorter they seem. But to do this play every day And to do it with such extraordinary people who are so committed to bringing it to life has really been an honor. Endings are interesting for me. I can't quite organize this experience in my mind yet. And I know that over the coming days and weeks so many memories and images and feelings will come to the fore. But it has been extraordinary and I've already been speaking for too long so I'll hand it over. Thank you sincerely to all of you from the bottom of my heart. And let's have a look at this!" 

Here is a wider look at the crowd. Many of the people Tom thanked in his speech are there including Emily Vaughan-Barrat and Emma Lyles.  


Emma shared some lovely snaps on her Instagram. Tom is such a proud dad. 

Producer, Benjamin Lowy, shared this clip on his Instagram

If there was ever a person who deserved anything - it's Tom Hiddleston. I may be slightly biased ok. 

Some other famous faces on the walls at Sardi's NYC include Uma Thurman, Andrew Garfield, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Samuel L. Jackson, and Angela Bassett

One of the requirements of getting your portrait is that you have to eat at Sardi's during your Broadway run. Which wouldn't be a problem for Tom since that restaurant is only a 2 minute walk from the Jacobs Theatre. 

ps: This was also a big day for the London production of Betrayal. They received FOUR nominations at the WhatsOnStage Awards: Best Actor in a Play (Tom Hiddleston), Best Actress in a Play (Zawe Ashton), Best Support Actor in a Play (Charlie Cox), and Best Play Revival (Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre). These awards are completely fan voted. You can vote here


Tom Hiddleston is wearing a Ralph Lauren suit. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014)

We're hosting a fundraiser for Unicef UK to mark Tom Hiddleston's birthday. If you are able, please donate! Also, we have prizes!!! The fundraiser closes on February 10, 2019. 

November 25, 2019: 

A television appearance almost six years in the making! There was even a petition

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon premiered in February 2014. Since then Tom Hiddleston has appeared in 10 movies, starred in a Golden Globe winning television series, and made his Broadway debut 3 months ago but somehow today was his first time on the show.

Tom's appearance comes a day after the Evening Standard Theatre Awards where he was nominated for his role in Betrayal (West End). Tom lost out on the Best Actor award to Andrew Scott. 

Prior to the episode airing, Fallon Tonight shared a short clip. The clip shows previously unseen footage from Tom Hiddleston's original audition for Thor. 

We had seen a little bit from this same scene in the Thor: The Dark World bonus features but this is the first time we've heard it with sound. 

Back in 2013, Tom mentioned that he had auditioned in an American accent: "I was only ever Thor for a very short period of time and that was even before the character was clearly written on the page. I auditioned for Thor in an American accent.". Tbh he could've played Loki, Odin, Thor, and Sif all at the same time and it still would have been amazing but I think we're all happy Tom ended up as Loki.

Tom also took to Instagram to share his excitement about being on Fallon Tonight. 


My first time on @fallontonight! Thank you so much @jimmyfallon and the team for the laughs.

You can watch the full interview below. Jimmy asked Tom about running into his Avengers co-stars in Centtal Park (not really) and they cry over Baby Yoda (really). 


I apologize for really failing fashion-wise. The search for items is seriously hindered by the fact that I can not longer see in any kind of detail. I'll be retiring the fashion from my Hiddles as soon as I finish out my Costume Design series. 

But what I can see? Yes, please. This is peak Professor Hiddles! I feel like staying after class and doing some extra credit. There are so many elements to this outfit that are a completely new style for Tom. I'm here for turtleneck Tom! The sportscoat is also really interesting. It has patch pockets and a collar tab which is rare combination. 


Ralph Lauren confirmed on twitter that Tom was wearing their pre-Spring 2020 collection. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Betrayal Broadway Chats (2019)

We're hosting a fundraiser for Unicef UK to mark Tom Hiddleston's birthday. If you are able, please donate! Also, we have prizes!!! The fundraiser closes on February 10, 2019. 

November 7, 2019: 

The cast of Betrayal Broadway made a previously unannounced appearance at AOL Build. 

You can watch the video now on the Build Series Facebook page or on their Youtube channel

Here are some of the highlights: (PS: I feel like what they talk about here is exactly the same way I interpreted the play in my Betrayal Broadway review.)

(7:45) Tom is asked about the minimal production. "There's a profundity and a simplicity to Pinter's writing which we feel we have to meet. That's - for me - when acting's most exciting. The play deals with some very deep pain. The experience of human pain. And Pinter's able to make you feel that pain - to feel it's sadness, to feel the loss, to feel the grief, to feel the cruelty but also in moments to find it absurd and funny. There's humor in it too. And he's so economical with language. It seems naturalistic, it seems every day but it's almost poetry. And so the challenge for us as actors is to match with the same level of simplicity. Trying to excavate something deep and something profound about the experience of being alive. And to do it in a very clean, economical way. We've loved it. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life." 

(9:15) Charlie is asked about the meaning behind Pause and piece of writing. "You have make decisions about what the Pauses and Silences mean in the same way you have to make decisions about what you mean when you say the actual words. That's also very exciting. We had lots of conversations about about the differences between Pauses and Silences... The boring answer is the Silence is longer. One thing I read in Michael Billington's biography of Harold Pinter was that Harold had told him once that 'when you Pause it's either because you were going to say something and you decided not to or you thought the other character was going to say something and they didn't. The difference between a Silence is at the end of the Silence one or both of you are changed forever.' I guess there's a death to a Silence or there's an underlying revelation or pain to a Silence that a Pause doesn't quite have." 

(15:53) Tom talking about Pinter's portrayal of women. "It's a curious thing I think Pinter is genuinely interested in is how power is negotiated between men and women. And who survives. Of course on the surface it seems like my character Robert and Charlie's character Jerry are competing for power but actually it's Emma who I think survives. He has a rift in the middle of the play about the vulnerability of boy babies versus girl babies, and Robert and Jerry are debating boy babies cry more than girl babies. Don't they? And why do they? In fact it's a theme through many of Pinter's plays that there is a hidden fragility and vulnerability in men which is unique to them. A woman will prevail and succeed where a man will invariably fail... Emma has got some strength that Robert and Jerry don't possess... There is a kind of tension between the external and the internal. Robert is a successful publisher, he presents himself as charismatic and confident and in control. He's shattered by the loss of his marriage. Shattered by the loss of his friendship with his oldest friend. You see the cost of having to shut all that pain away. I think he becomes kind of cynical and shut down. He seems alright on the surface but I don't think he is ultimately. That's one of the many betrayals is the betrayal of himself. I think having to keep a lid on his vulnerability only renders him more alone in the end."

(19:11) Charlie on how Betrayal is a play about an affair that's not really about an affair. "I think it's about the end of an affair. I think it's also about the end of a friendship as well. What I've personally enjoyed the most about the dynamic that we found, us three, is that we feel like the end of the friendship is as painful as the end of the affair. And that these three characters kind of love each other equally. Tom, in rehearsals, would talk a lot about the co-dependencies of these relationships. Meaning that the marriage can really only survive when the friendship is in place and equally the affair can only survive when the marriage is in place etc etc. The first week and a half we rehearsed the play chronologically, in time order... it was revealing' to see how you transition from each moment and think about how much time has passed between scenes."

(21:25) Tom added:  "...The plot is revealed within the first ten minutes. There's very little that's revealed in terms of story so he lines up the dominoes for the audience very quickly. It's not knowing that they're going to fall - the audience knows that as the clock goes backwards - the excitement or the interest is watching how they fall... The situation is almost unthinkable in terms of it's painfulness. A man and a woman are married, and she has been having an affair with his best friend, who was best man at their wedding, for seven years. The man he most trusted, the man who carries the rings at the wedding, is the man who has betrayed him." 

(24:02) Tom on why Robert allows the affair to continue. "It's a way of managing his pain... The reason people don't speak in some of these scenes is because the next thing they say might save or destroy the relationship. And these relationships really matter because there are children involved, there are homes involved, and there are careers involved. Robert and Jerry are in the same business. They're both in publishing. Robert's a publisher. Jerry's a literary agent. And they have the same client. The same very, very successful novelist and writers that they represent. Who pay the bills. So if Robert and Jerry have a huge falling out then it means a lot for their lives, it means a lot for their homes, it means a lot for their ability to pay for their families. I think that their whole lives are intertwined in a very complex way. So Robert not revealing that he knows about the affair is somehow able to swallow it. I think it's difficult. But then knows he can punish Jerry with it later." 

(27:25) Talking about the Waiter scene. Charlie: "It's funny because it's painful. That's what I think is brilliant about (Pinter) is that he recognizes that in great tragedy is comes great humor."  Tom: "It comes from his construction which is that the audience at that point know that Robert knows about the affair. So the expectations of the audience are they're having that and that Robert will confront Jerry. 'I know that you've been having an affair with my wife'. And he doesn't. So he has to sublimate all that anger and all that sense of retaliatory vengeance. And he doesn't say it. So it takes it out on the poor waiter who's just trying to serve them lunch. He gets angry at the waiter for being slow, for not bringing the wine the right way, for not bringing lunch fast enough. He gets angry with food itself... but doesn't name the elephant in the room. So, the dramatic irony of the audience knowing this truth is not being spoken and it's being redirected at other targets I think is what makes it funny. 

(34:45) Charlie talking about the lack of set or props. "Paradoxically the lack of furniture feels very claustrophobic. I think it's because if you're in an uncomfortable conversation, if you're feeling uncomfortable feelings it's very human to enter avoidance of them by moving insignificantly. By moving from a couch to a coffee table, by picking up a magazine, pour yourself a drink. There's many things you can do to display or avoid really uncomfortable feelings and appear to be fine about it. We don't have that. So when these moments rise in our play, these avoidance that we have is so transparent and that's what I think makes the production so uncomfortable at times for people is because it's so evident."

This is Tom Hiddleston's fourth appearance on AOL Build. He previously was on the web series in 2015 with the cast of Crimson Peak, in 2016 with the cast of High-Rise and in 2017 with the cast of Kong: Skull Island

After the Build Series, the cast sat down with Alex Berg on Buzzfeed's AM2DM. I will post more from this interview when it is available. 

They finished off their press day at SiriusXM radio. 


White at SiriusXM, Tom caught up with his old friend DJ Whoo Kid. 

Both interviews mention the Betrayal Broadway 200th show on November 6th. They shared some pictures from the celebration on their Instagram page.  


Build Series

Getty Images
Betrayal Broadway
DJ Whoo Kid