Review: The Winter’s Tale

Zoe Barnes 4 May 2016

The Winter’s Tale is a dazzling master stroke.

From the outset, there was a feeling of anticipation as the audience settled into their seats, and the actors asserted their dominance over the stage. Sicilia is created with an effective colour palette of duck blue, accented with notes of red and green velvet, complimented perfectly by the costumes. Great care has been taken to set the tone as the lights on the walls flicker, and the atmosphere darkens. Leontes (Tom Beaven) and particularly Hermione (Ellen Gage) are powerhouses of strength, and changes in their characters are well portrayed, as is Hermione’s heart-wrenching turn in the dock.

The Bohemian segment of the play is packed so full of good moments, that it would be nigh on impossible to mention them all. The much anticipated ‘Exit, pursued by a bear.’ is very well portrayed, and the dedication with which Antigonus (Adam Mirsky) plays his character must be noted.

Post-interval, the curtain went up to reveal an astonishingly beautiful set, a pastoral fantasy where everyone involved seems brimming with energy and invigorated by a renewed sense of purpose. Rumours of great musical numbers were proven accurate, and the folksy, toe-tapping tunes animate the proceedings perfectly, while the dancing is a joy to behold. Scenes with the Shepherd (Rosie Brown) and her son (Henry Wilkinson), together with the comic turns of the devilish rogue, Autoclydus (Jack Gardner), are some of the most enjoyable in the play, each actor showing great comic timing, and complimenting each other perfectly, especially during a scene where Autoclydus revels in a delightfully detailed description of the torture that his dim-witted victims might be about to face.

There were a few flaws. In the shadowy halls of Sicilia, certain cast members could have done with having their hair pinned back, and a couple might have better learnt the art of stillness as they ran their hands through their hair, rocking from foot to foot, heads shaking and mouths open, facial expressions stuck in a chin-up pout (whether listening to King Leontes call for an infant to be thrown to the fire or watching the trial of Hermione) but luckily, these issues were small and mostly evaporated post-interval, where the only irritation was the use of a set with holes in it, ostensibly to portray Sicilia’s decay over the past sixteen years, but through which one could discern heads bobbing up and down in the wings.

The Winter’s Tale is a brilliant bubble of joy, at turns beautiful and moving, highly aesthetic and masterfully orchestrated under director Will Bishop. Not to be missed.