After watching The Winter’s Tale, I contemplate that this may be proof that even the mighty Shakespeare suffered from writer’s block. Or maybe a looming deadline. Antigonas has fulfilled his role, is stuck in the forrest in a storm and his monologue is over… “exit pursued by a bear”. A crucial reconciliation scene, arguably one of the two dramatic climaxes of the play, occurs in another room and we get an update from the chorus. And the final scene feels like a daytime soapie ‘go-to’. A character that has been killed off is miraculously brought back with a few creative lines of dialogue and a stretch of even the most avid fan’s imagination. And don’t even start me on the newborn baby that survives a long journey by sea, abandonment in a forest during a wild storm and a marauding bear. But there is also something powerful in this play. The themes of familial ties, honour, jealousy and remorse are strong and relatable. More significant is that there are some juicy roles for women. Sure they still do not have equal stage time, but there are a few powerful monologues.
Sean O’Riordan directs this production with a good eye. Tricky moments such as the bear attack, or the Shakespearian device of characters successfully disguising themselves against family and loved ones, are all cheekily dealt with . A sense of humour shared with the audience. Blocking is smooth and continuous and the cast successfully maintain a sense of tension, comedy or fun when required, but the opening monologue after interval was far too laboured and lost meaning. Generally the casting is spot on despite a few roles cast too young. Familial resemblance or the ageing of characters is ignored but it does not negatively impact the story. At times the blocking left actors in dark corners out of the light but generally the stage was used very effectively and the sense of place and story telling was good.
Isabel Hudson‘s set is simple but striking. The two sides of the stage reframed with sketches and a tinsel curtain created infinite opportunities for entrances, exits and prop delivery. It allowed the stage to be clear and available for the large cast to own. The costumes felt appropriate for the roles and setting. Liam O’Keefe’s lighting design created the sense of place perfectly with some very creative moments. There were, however, a couple of very dark scenes that felt unnecessary.
Overall most performances were of a good standard with good command of the Shakespearean language. However there were a couple of actors that struggled with the it. Charles Upton had good stage presence if not the gravitas required for Leontes. Some of his strongest emotional moments were physicalised but not felt. He gave a committed performance and was strongest in the second half. Russel Cronin revelled in the role of clown and Alec Ebert also a gave solid performance. In this production it was the women who stood out for me. Grace Naoum and Romney Stanton gave powerful performances as Hermione and Paulina. I was disappointed that Stanton’s commanding reprimand of the king was delivered with her back to most of the audience but she still dominated the stage. Naoum’s passionate defence against her husband’s accusations was beautiful to watch. Laura Djanegara was strong as Camillo. Each cast member got a chance to shine and most gave strong performances.
Overall this is a good, entertaining production but it is a short run so if you are going to see it, get moving.
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town
27th Sept – 7th October
8pm Wed – Sat, 5pm Sun
Venue: Depot Theatre
Theatre Company: Depot Theatre
Duration: 135 minutes (including interval)