By William Shakespeare
Directed by Paul Miller
Venue: Crucible Theatre
Date: Thursday 10th October 2013
A creditable production of this play, and worth the trip to see it. I had the usual problems with moist eyes at the end, which is as it should be, and there were a number of laughs throughout the evening. We spotted some interesting interpretations, and overall it was a good ensemble performance. Not up to the standard of their Othello or Macbeth, but still deserving a fuller auditorium than they got tonight.
The set was nice and simple. There was a wooden panelled wall at the back of the stage with wooden floorboards stretching away from it to create a rectangular floor space. A wooden hand cart sat in the front left corner of this stage at the start, piled high with luggage – this Polixenes really was on the point of leaving. Around all this the stage was painted white, with a textured surface giving the impression of snow, highly appropriate. On either side of the back wall there was a doorway in the white surface, and white steps led off down each forward entrance. Once the lights came up I could see that there were cracks in the wooden panels at the back which allowed some of the light to shine through, all suggestive of wear and tear and disintegration. That was it at the start, and apart from some items being brought on as needed, the stage was largely bare throughout.
The costumes were interesting too. We guessed that the early scenes were in Edwardian style, but the military uniforms seemed to have echoes going back to Waterloo. The later Sicilian scenes had moved on to the 1930s, which again fitted with starting the play in the Edwardian era. Bohemia had a wide range of styles, but given the nature of the scenes most of the outfits were rustic or countrified. With a bare stage, the other aspects of a design can’t help us to place the period accurately. Fortunately we had a good view throughout from the front of the stalls, to the right of the centre.
Camillo entered with Archidamus, the former in a long black coat, the latter in military uniform. Archidamus indicated the luggage cart when referencing Polixenes’ planned departure, and the cart was soon moved off stage. The royal party came into view in the doorway, and stood there chatting for a bit. Mamillius came forward and did some sword practice in the middle of the stage while Archidamus and Camillo continued their conversation by discussing him; played by Thomas Barker tonight, this was a very assured performance. Mamillius also wore a military uniform which was a scaled-down version of his father’s. To round this off, he even had a doll wearing a similar uniform tucked into his belt. This was the toy he played with later on after being instructed to “go play” by his father.
Once Leontes, Hermione and Polixenes came forward onto the stage, Camillo and Archidamus left them alone. The strong relationship between the two men came across very clearly, so it was no surprise when Leontes took Mamillius to a back corner of the stage to chat with him, leaving Hermione alone to persuade Polixenes to stay. As a result, Leontes heard only parts of their conversation, and these snippets were the trigger for his jealous fit. At one point, holding Mamillius by the head, Leontes’ forefingers were pointing up on either side, looking like horns. He kept glancing at his wife and his friend, and when he heard Hermione’s lines “If you first sinned with us…”, it was clear that he misinterpreted this light banter as a confession of adultery, confirming his sudden suspicion. Mamillius was affected somewhat by his father’s mood, and kept glancing at him to see what was going on.