THE WINTER’S TALE: William Shakespeare.
RSC, Courtyard, Stratford upon Avon.
Runs: 3h 10m, one interval, in repertory till Sat 3rd October.
Review: Rod Dungate, 1 May 2009
Flawed, but stick with it, it’s rewarding.
There is a stark contrast between the first and second halves of this production. In some ways this is natural; the play begins in Leontes’ court (in this production mostly in a towering, austere library), the play moves to the healing countryside of Bohemia. Director, David Farr goes out of his way to accentuate this difference and in doing so nearly succeeds in alienating us. Thankfully, the second half has the power truly to uplift.
The first half isn’t easy on the actor playing Leontes. Greg Hicks commands; his descent into dark paranoia is swift and convincing. Moments of clarity emerge but they are fleeting. Kelly Hunter’s Hermione is beautiful. Elegant, moving to start with, she encompasses the tragic with ease in her trial scene. Two strong and skilled performances here; the trouble is they’re surrounding by a lot of declaiming of verse, and frequently not very good declaiming of verse either.
A notable exception to this is Noma Dumezweni’s Paulina; with a fluid performance Dumezweni totally inhabits both the character and the language.
The more relaxed atmosphere of the second half allows the actors to blossom. There’s a strong sense of ensemble here. Larrington Walker’s Old Shepherd is completely engaging, his son (Gruffudd Glyn), differently but equally so. Particularly noticeable is Tunji Kasim’s youthful Florizel. A bonus is the rustic dance – a seeming fusion of mummer and haka.
After the rural delights, the play whizzes us back to Leontes‘ court. Here Hicks, Hunter and Dumezweni come into their own. The performance leaps to a completely new plane and the effect is stunning. An exquisite end to a flawed but worthwhile production.
Jon Bausor designs. His settings are ingenious. Leontes‘ world literally collapses dramatically around him after his denial of Apollo’s oracle. Lighting changes this (with scenic additions) to warm and comfortable Bohemia. Another change of lighting and soundscape and we are believably in the cold, loveless setting of Leontes‘ ruined palace.
Archidamus: Joseph Arkley.
Camillo: John MacKay.
Leontes: Greg Hicks.
Polixenes: Darrell D’Silva.
Hermione: Kelly Hunter.
Mamillius: Cian Cheesbrough, Alfie Jones, Sebastian Salisbury.
Emilia: Hannah Young.
Ladies: Simone Saunders, Kirsty Woodward.
Antigonus: James Gale.
Sicilian Lords: Adam Burton, David Rubin.
Paulina: Noma Dumezweni.
Cleomenes: Phillip Edgerley.
Dion: Sam Troughton.
Paulina’s Steward: Sam Troughton.
Servants: Paul Hamilton, Patrick Romer, Oliver Ryan.
Officers: Joseph Arkley, Tunji Kasim.
Mariner: Patrick Romer.
Old Shepherd: Larrington Walker.
Young Shepherd: Gruffudd glyn.
Time: Patrick Romer.
Autolycus: Brian Doherty.
Florizel: tunji Kasim.
Perdita: Samantha Young.
Mopsa: Kirsty Woodward.
Dorcas: Simone Saunders.
Servant: Oliver Ryan.
Directed by: David Farr.
Designed by: Jon Bausor.
Lighting Designed by: Jon Clark.
Music by: Keith Clouston.
Sound Designed by: Martin Slavin.
Choreographer: arthur Pita.
Company Text and Voice Work by: Charmian Hoard.
Company Movement by: Struan Leslie and Lucy Cullingford.
Director of Puppetry: Steve Tiplady.
Aerial Consultant: Lyndall Merry.
Assistant Director: Helen Leblique.
Music Director: Bruce O’Neil.
Casting by: Hannah Miller.