The Winter’s Tale is one of the Bard’s more under-performed plays and with good reason. The comic-tragedy is a little underwhelming on both counts, it lacks the humour of some of Wil’s great comedies like the Twelfth Night and also falls way short of the tragic endings like that of Lear or the Scottish play. It is in a kind of bland middle ground with all of the trappings of a great play, but none of the oomph. (Except for the bear pursuing Antigonas).
Very slick and stylised, The Winter’s Tale reminded me a bit of the STC’s King Lear from 2016, except this production is also a bit like the Beatles White Album: it lacks uniformity, but rather comprises a lot of single great elements that as a whole work less well than as the individual parts. Many incongruous features made it feel a bit all over the place, with the play veering wildly off-track in the second act, complete with a dance number featuring ‘Nut Bush City Limits’. This was a fun, if surprising addition to the play. 70s Pop has pastoral pipped at the post here, but choreography was irresistible.
It wasn’t all surprise dance numbers and a dodgy looking bear though, there were some fantastic performances, most notably Grace Naoum who excelled as Hermione. And I would watch anything with Charles Upton in it, so he could have been reciting lines from the telephone book, but of course wasn’t, his agony as Leontes was heartfelt.
The Winter’s Tale is sometimes referred to as one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ plays: an intense drama followed by a few comic acts, then a happy ending. This production also has a few problems, but is still worth seeing for the ensemble cast tackling the Bard and for the most part, winning.
Presented by Secret House, The Winter’s Tale is on until 7 October, for more information and tickets see: http://thedepottheatre.com/the-winter-s-tale
Featuring: Jane Angharad, Alison Benstead, Alana Birtles, Russell Cronin, Laura Djanegara, Alec Ebert, Neil Sun Hyland, Derbail Kinsella, Dave Kirkham, Grace Naoum, Roger Smith, James Smithers, Romney Stanton, Charles Upton, Richard Woodhouse, Emma Wright and Danen Young.
Creative/Tech Team: Sean O’Riordan (director), Angela Atkinson (stage manager), Isabel Hudson (set & costume design), Liam O’Keefe (lighting design),
Above image by Liam O’Keefe