The Winter’s Tale ***

19Apr09

Queen Margaret University School of Drama and Creative Industries, The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
Tuesday 14th April – Saturday 18th April 2009

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale has the reputation for being a tricky play to produce. It fails to fit into a tragic or comic category and the two settings, Sicilia and Bohemian, are disconnected from each other in both style and tone. Director Bruce Strachan’s production aimed to overcome these problems by connecting the action through the eyes of the young character Mamilius, who is telling the story to his mother in an oversize book set. The result is a very distinct interpretation of the play, which succeeds in uniting some aspects, but regrettably loses other elements of the play.

The opening setting of Sicilia is presented as a graceful background to the jealousy of Bill Addison’s King Leontes. Addison’s performance could be described as a traditional interpretation, with a beautiful lyrical use of Shakespeare’s words, yet his strengths lay more in his scenes in the second half. Jennifer Macdonell’s Queen Hermione contains all the elegance and feistiness required for the role, creating noticeably dramatic moments in the first half. Similarly, Rebecca Bradley gave a distinguished performance as Paulina, passionately defending her queen with a controlled impressive stillness. The first half of the play should be dramatically stronger to show the tragedy in the story, an element this production, indisputably, embraces.

However, the second half in Bohemian caused more problems for the production. The setting was unclear, as the cast adopted a variety of different regional accents, and the costumes reflected a general country side feel, without defining anything. Yet, the humour found by Rhys Teare-Williams and Luke McConnell, as the Shepherd and his son the Clown, was very fitting and enjoyed greatly by the audience. Likewise, the exchanges between Samuel Jameson’s Camillo and Roddy Walker’s Polixenes had moments of true performance intelligence, dramatically and comically.

On the whole, the overall arch of the story was lost a little and Shakespeare’s poetic story telling suited some of the actors more than other. Memorable cameos were given by the cast who took on smaller but more parts, yet the production was restricted by the limitations of the small number of the cast.  Strachan’s efforts uniting the production, to the most extent, resulted in a good quality performance of a challenging play.

TF

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