The Winter’s Tale – August 2009 (1)

8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by David Farr

Venue: Courtyard Theatre

Date: Thursday 13th August 2009

This performance was so much better than the one we saw back in June. The dialogue was clearer, the individual performances had more detail, our view was better, and we suspect there was less paper on the floor in the second half. I hadn’t been looking forward to seeing this one again, but now I’m glad I did.

Of course, we’ve also attended various talks, including a chat from Kelly Hunter which was both interesting and revealing about the production and her own choices. She mentioned that she uses the time off stage between her ‘death’ and her arrival as a statue to get her body prepared for staying still, including lowering her heart rate. It certainly pays off, as I was watching her closely tonight and I couldn’t detect any movement at all, which is remarkable. I’ve only seen one other person do so well on stage, and he was a professional street performer who stands still for a living (Don Juan In Soho).

So to any specific differences or extra things we spotted. I watched Leontes closely tonight, and saw how the interaction between Hermione and Polixenes sparked the idea of jealousy in him, and how their subsequent, innocent behaviour added fuel to the fire. Hermione was indeed getting physically close to Polixenes, but it was at her husband’s request, and as Kelly mentioned earlier, her large bump made her sexually unavailable so flirting would have seemed more permissible. I was also conscious that Polixenes himself announces that he’s been there for nine months and it seemed to me that that detail contributed to Leontes’ delusional obsession. The whole scene came across more clearly, and while I enjoyed some of the early humour, I found I was out of sync with most of the audience at times as I wanted to savour the darkness of Leontes’ behaviour rather than laugh at it.

I had no such problems when Paulina takes the baby to the king and gives him a good telling off in the process – plenty to laugh at there. The trial scene was also stronger, and I was starting to get the sniffles at the sad news, first of Mamillius’s death, then Hermione’s (even though I know how the play ends). The bear seemed to work better this time, and Steve remembered the mittens hanging down from the sleeves of the young shepherd – a nice touch, showing us directly that he’s not the sharpest tool in the box.

The second half rattled through much as before but I enjoyed it better. Autolycus seemed to have come on, or perhaps I was just used to this portrayal. His stint as a courtier, manipulating the two shepherds for his own ends, was definitely funnier. The final scenes, with the Bohemia crew arriving en masse in Sicilia, followed by the revelation of the statue and Hermione’s return to life, were all very good, and I noticed a reference to Mamillius which was quickly quashed by Leontes, which answers a point raised during some of the talks, that Hermione and Leontes don’t mention the boy at all during the reunion scene. The play finished as before, with Autolycus left out in the cold. The audience showed its appreciation, and I left the theatre happier than I’d expected to be.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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