The Winters Tale
RSC at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
23rd July 2009
The RSC have put together a new ensemble which will work on a number of productions between now and 2011. If these first fruits are anything to go by, it promises to be a very good run indeed.
This performance of this play seemed to take a little while to warm up. Greg Hicks’ Leontes and Darrell D’Silva’s Polixenes’ opening exchanges lack a little something but both actors are a vital strength in a production which is the equal, if not the better of the run of “The Winters Tale” at the Swan, in the same town, just a few short years ago – and that production was no slouch.
I suspect thought that the female section of the cast are perhaps director David Farr’s best suit in a strong hand. Samantha Young as Perdita wins our affections. Noma Dumezweni is a convincing and compelling Paulina. Kelly Hunter as Hermione is master of a difficult role as she evokes strong emotion with her speech in the trial scene and manages to be a very still statue in the closing melodrama.
The real encouragement is that it has hard to find a weak link in this ensemble. Brian Doherty as Autoclyus and Larrington Walker as the Old Shepherd are easy to warm to as the comedy heart of the countryside scenes after the interval and Walker’s double-act with Gruffudd Glyn is heartwarming and they capture the naivete of two innocents brought to the King’s court wonderfully. Aside from the lukewarm early moments it would be a cruel reviewer who found more weaknesses here. The stage set is not too elaborate. The collapse of bookcases at the interval and the paper bear that rises from them to kill Antigonus are dramatic and the dance scene which takes the book and paper image to its extreme narrowly avoids taking the idea too far. Some tourist visitors wondered if this scene was a little too ribald. You’ll know what they meant when you see it.
Unseasonal it may be but this production warmed the cockles of our heart
Larrington Walker as the Old Shepherd
Greg Hicks as Leontes