THE WINTER’S TALE
by William Shakespeare.
Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 8 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 4 Oct.
Captioned 8 Oct 2.30pm.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 September.
A production not quite for all seasons.
Having Sue Lefton as director guarantees an outstanding evening at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. Usually. But Shakespeare makes unusual demands, and for all the good moments – mainly in the first part, before a 16-year gap brings on a new generation – this is an uneven, at times inexplicable production.
Why, in a play, where the effects of aging are spelled-out – in reference to the statue of a supposedly dead queen – does so little of it take place among those who are adults throughout? Why, with Whitsun pastorals mentioned, do the later festivities take place on a sunburnt plain?
It’s more frustrating because Lefton and her Leontes, Tim Treslove, do so well with the thing Shakespeare leaves unexplained; why King Leontes suddenly suspects his wife and his best kingly friend of having an affair. Productions try to pass it off with theatricality – a sudden lighting change, maybe. Not here, where Treslove’s friendly smile lingers until he crosses towards them. Suspicion visibly afflicts him. And the fact of that suspicion overwhelms him, as courtiers gather close, in his mind also suspecting.
Shakespeare seems to have known jealousy more than he understood it. Iago spends much of Othello unsuccessfully pinning-down the cause of his jealousy. Treslove makes convincing Leontes’ inability to give up his conviction even against a divine oracle, until the bottom falls out of his world.
Ignatius Anthony is friendly and open as the object of unfounded suspicion; Polixenes, King of Bohemia, Leontes’ lifelong friend. Yet, despite the ridiculous Edwardian get-up in which he’s later disguised when hunting down his son, his irrational anger against the lad’s apparently rustic fiancée Perdita shows him every bit as emotionally tormented as his friend had been 16 years before.
Lefton, as might be expected from a director who’s a movement specialist, comes very close to creating an impressive bear for Antigonus to exit pursued by – only at the last moment does the impact fail. It’s the post-interval newcomers who are more pallid. By contrast, at first and last, as the frank-speaking Paulina, Shuna Snow presents an organised authority in keeping with her smart, no-nonsense appearance.
Polixenes: Ignatius Anthony.
Antigonus/Musician: Pete Ashmore.
Emilia/Mopsa: Kate Copeland.
Florizel: Fred Lancaster.
Old Shepherd: Ben Livingstone.
Hermione: Nadia Morgan.
Clown: Thomas Richardson.
Paulina: Shuna Snow.
Camillo: Adrian Stokes.
Autolycus: David Tarkenter.
Leontes: Tim Treslove.
Perdita: Emily Woodward.
Mamillius: Joseph Crabb/Joshua Lee/Elliot Littlebury.
Community Company: Jessica Allen, Nicholas Barton-Wines, Kim Bennett, Niamh Bennett, Matthew Bradbury, Diana Childs, Beryl Clayden, Joseph Crabb, Alexander Fleetham, Robert Green, Anna Hinds, Laura Hinds, Abigail Lee, Susan Lee, Jenny Lithgow, Steve Liversedge, Carol O’Brien, Stuart Polley, Chris Runicles, Dot Scwartz, Bethany Sharp, Natalie Taylor, Tina Watson, Albert Weir, Hannah Willingale, Graham Young, Juliet Young.
Director: Sue Lefton.
Designer: Richard Foxton.
Lighting: Ben Payne.
Sound: Marcus Christensen.
Musical Director: Ben Livingstone.
Dialect coach: Jo Cameron-Brown.
Assistant director: Charlie Morgan.