THE WINTER’S TALE
By William Shakespeare
The Silk Street Theatre, the Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS to 22 April 2017. Then Bristol Old Vic 25-29 April 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.3opm. Mat Sat 2pm. No perf 17 April.
Livestream from the Barbican at 7.30 on 19 April www.cheekbyjowl.com/livestream
Runs 2hr 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7633 4141.
Review: William Russell 6 April.
A stunning account of jealousy and possible redemption
This Cheek by Jowl staging of one of Shakespeare’s more difficult plays gets a tough and exciting staging from Declan Donnellan seeming at times as if we had landed up watching the Jeremy Kyle show as accusations of he said this and she did this, that and the next thing are hurled around. Leontes, King of Sicily, played by Orlando James as a terrific butch braggart in blue jeans, wrongly accuses his heavily pregnant wife Hermione, a first rate Natalie Radmall-Quirke, of adultery with his best friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia, played by Edward Sayer.
Donnellan abandons the opening scene setting chat and instead we get Leontes and Polixenes larking around, posh boys who love one another as much as they love women. Then catastrophe strikes after Hermione seems too fond of Polixenes when urging him to stay awhile longer and Leontes duly goes out of his mind. It is intriguing that his son, Mamilius, who dies suddenly, clearly has something wrong with him in the scenes of happy family life as, like his father, he is liable to sudden and unexplained rages.
Hermione is brutally cast aside, and seems to die from the violence with which she is assaulted, while her new born baby is sent to die in the wilderness. Naturally the child survives, is brought up by shepherds and the tale takes its course. The rustic scenes are earthy, and for once Perdita is not some perfectly spoken debutante in exile but a shepherdess who knows what’s what and is clearly about to allow the visiting Prince Florizel, who loves her, to have his way. Daddy Polixenes, who is at the shepherds’ festival incognito is furious. But it all comes right in the end.
The result is an exhilarating evening, the famous exit pursued by a bear instruction is impressively dealt with, and the wide boy comic, Autolycus, who cons the rustics, one of Shakespeare’s more tiresome clowns, is actually very funny. Ryan Donaldson, swooping around, microphone in hand, guitar at the ready, as the Kyle figure gets away with it pretty well. I am not sure, although the ending suggests all will be well, that it really does end well. Jealousy tends to be an affliction impossible to eradicate.
Emilia/Time: Grace Andrews.
Cleomenes: Joseph Black.
Camillo: David Carr.
Mamillius: Tom Cawte.
Autolycus: Ryan Donaldson.
Dion: Guy Hughes.
Leontes: Orlando James.
Young Shepherd: Sam McArdle.
Perdita: Eleanor McLaughlin.
Old Shepherd/Antigonus: Peter Moreton.
Hermione/Dorcas: Natalie Radmall-Quirke.
Paulina/Mopsa: Joy Richardson.
Polixenes: Edward Sayer.
Florizel: Sam Woolf.
Director: Declan Donnellan.
Designer: Nick Ormerod.
Lighting Designer: Judith Greenwood.
Music: Paddy Cunneen.
Movement Director: Jane Gibson