THE WINTER’S TALE, RSC – Stratford and Touring

THE WINTER’S TALE: William Shakespeare
RSC, RST: Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 3h 15m, one interval.
At Stratford till 23 February, then touring.

Review: Alexander Ray Edser, RST, 02 02 13.

A most beautiful experience from start to finish.

Lucy Bailey’s production is a fine one – detailed, passionate and over-arching elements that help bind the big blocks of this play into a satisfying whole. And strong – very strong – acting to boot.

The journeying between Sicily and Bohemia is much brought to the fore with vast seascapes which change with the mood of the play. In addition, David McSeveney adds soundscapes – often of the sea, but at other points, just on the fringe of our hearing, of the world beyond the action we witness.

So the first part of the play is set in Leontes’ coastal palace. After his breakdown, as Leontes pleads with the gods, he is lifted aloft on top of a huge tower, reminiscent of a fort or watchtower. This draws an end to the dark Gothic of the first part, but stays as a reminder of our starting point throughout the pastoral. Again it comes into use in the final sequences – opening up as palace and tomblike chamber.

It’s a huge and bold statement – highly effective in William Dudley’s assured hands. How my heart leapt to find the usually cringing ‘bear’ moment made surprising and shocking, emerging suddenly against the sea and disappearing just as suddenly.

Jo Stone-Fewings is a sympathetic Leontes. Incredibly passionate, he is always believable – a human in the grip of what may be a bi-polar episode. A tragic protagonist not in control, for a short time, of his own future – but with long-lasting effects. Tara Fitzgerald is not cast into the shadows though – Hermione is so full of life in the opening sections her translation into the prisoner section is heartbreaking. In the play’s final moments she is utterly simple – all love, warmth, forgiveness.

Autolycus (Pearce Quigley) is outstanding. Quigley sits back on his character, relaxes with it and trusts the playwright. His manner is almost conversational as he draws us into his trickery. The comedy is all the greater, all the more genuine, and all the darker.

There is another revelation in this production – that this world is as much about class as it is anything else. Autolycus and all the other country workers have effective Northern English accents. Including Perdita. Emma Noakes’s Perdita feels genuine rather than Romantic.

And from the country comes Jon Boden’s beautiful score. It moves towards a fabulous Morris dance. But Boden flexes his music to suit the Court . . . again we see (or hear) an element binding the play together.

Joy, absolute joy.

Rakie Ayola – Paulina
Sally Bankes – Dorcas
Daniel Betts – Camillo
Tara Fitzgerald – Hermione
Gavin Fowler – Florizel
Andrew Hanratty – Lord
Nick Holder – Young Shepherd
Kieran Knowles – Gaoler
Adam Levy – Polixenes
Daniel Millar – Dion
Charlotte Mills – Mopsa
Emma Noakes – Perdita
Joseph Pitcher – Cleomenes
Pearce Quigley – Autolycus
David Shaw-Parker – Old Shepherd
Phil Snowden – Mariner
Jo Stone-Fewings –  Leontes
Bethan Walker – Emilia
Ben Whybrow – Lord
Duncan Wisbey – Antigonus

Director – Lucy Bailey
Designer – William Dudley
Lighting – Oliver Fenwick
Music – Jon Boden
Sound – David McSeveney
Movement – Lizzi Gee
Fights – Renny Krupinski

2013-02-03 20:02:22

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