THE WINTER’S TALE
by William Shakespeare.
Tour to 28 November 2015.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 October at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
Gravely purposeful chronicle of wasted time.
Famously, William Shakespeare’s king of Sicily, Leontes, moves instantaneously from happiness with his wife Hermione and visiting childhood friend, Polixenes king of Bohemia, to jealous friend and husband. In his own new production for Northern Broadsides, Conrad Nelson’s Leontes charts the sudden fit as closely as possible for an age of psychological realism.
His jealousy, unfounded but unshakeable, comes with isolation. The innocent merriment around separates from his increasingly self-destructive obsession, his mind spinning in the inflamed fury of Shakespeare’s verse.
In a play where Time becomes a character, it’s fitting to make the opening celebration, so soon soured, a New Year’s party complete with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (another anachronism alongside Shakespeare’s own incongruities here).
The tune opens the second half, with an offstage New year party, 16 years on, as Polixenes, having escaped his former friend’s murderous intent, is about to fall victim to a comparable rage. Like Richard II, these kings waste time and find time threatening to waste them.
In Leontes’ case, it does, the production closing from the marginally lighter tones of Bohemia when the action returns to Sicily, its palace covered in white sheets and Leontes huddled on the palace floor, his existence and power made pointless.
Less explicable in the opening section – as in the script – is Leontes’ sudden realisation his suspicions are as unfounded as they had been firm-rooted. It comes a moment too late, as Ruth Alexander Rubin’s Polina, refusing any of the humour the character can contain, reports Hermione’s death; news it will take half a generation to overcome; there are no quick-fixes in the play’s emotionally rich world.
Speed is the province of conman-trickster Autolycus with his life of unconsidered trifles and inconsequential outcomes. Mike Hugo’s mercurial Merseyside wit is the one character bringing humour – along with Nelson’s music. There might have been more of this; the silent scene-changes bring a drop in the emotional temperature.
However, the catchy popular ballads are contrasted by a beautifully sustained a cappella polyphony of the statue scene, where Nelson’s focus on the dark consequences of emotional bitterness eventually finds its moving resolution.
Archidamus/Old Shepherd: Russell Richardson.
Camillo: Andy Cryer.
Polixenes: Jack Lord.
Leontes: Conrad Nelson.
Hermione: Hannah Barrie.
Mamillius/Perdita: Vanessa Schofield.
Cleomenes/Dorcas: Lauryn Redding.
Antigonus: Andrew Whitehead.
Dion/Florizel: Jordon Kemp.
Clown/Lord: Adam Barlow.
Paulina: Ruth Alexander Rubin.
Aurolycus: Mike Hugo.
Emilia/Mopsa: Jessica Dyas.
Director/Composer: Conrad Nelson.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Musical Director: Rebekah Hughes.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
6-10 Oct 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 01284 769505 www.theatreroyal.org
13-17 Oct Tue-Fri 7.30pm Mat Sat 1pm Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield 01484 430528 www.thelbt.org
20-24 Oct Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 7.30pm Thu 7pm Mat Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough 01723 370541 www.sjt.uk.com
27-31 Oct 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm Everyman Theatre Cheltenham 01242 572573 www.everymantheatre.org.uk
3-7 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm New Vic Theatre Newcastle-under-Lyme 01782 717962 www.newvictheatre.org.uk
10-14 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm The Dukes Lancaster 01524 59u8500 www.dukes-lancaster.org
17-21 Nov Tue, Thu-Sat 7.30pm Wed 5.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2pm Liverpool Playhouse 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
24-28 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Viaduct Theatre Halifax 01422 255266 www. deanclough.com