Friday, January 07, 2011

Theatre Review: 'The Winter's Tale' RSC @ Roundhouse London, 30 December 2010

I'm not nearly as well read (or seen on stage) of Shakespeare as I would like to be, so there is something rather wonderful about coming to plays NOT fully aware of the play's narrative or previous versions.

HLW had tipped me off that the RSC's recent ensemble production of The Winter's Tale was worth seeing as she had seen it at Stratford earlier in 2010. This meant that I was broadly alerted to some of the more dramatic stage actions, but this did not spoil things.

When I saw that they were doing The Winter's Tale in London at the Camden Roundhouse in December near Xmas, I could not resist booking for Neil and I, even though this meant that we visited London either side of Xmas (oh SUCH hardship!) - but it was worth the expense.

It's an erratic tale in many ways: lurching from conviviality to raging jealousy to brutal paranoia and across to ribald bawdy humour, young love, knavish rogues, finally ending in magical revivification.

Though casting a slighter figure than I had expected, Greg Hicks was outstanding as the king who brings down the wrath of the oracle (and more) upon on his vengeful jealousy. I was also impressed by the imperious Noma Dumezweni as Paulina who was utterly convincing and powerful in her efforts to convince Leontes of his error and then to bring the prophecy full circle when she brings forth the statue of the wronged Queen Hermione. And the set designers excel themselves in how they visually bring everything to life (though it creates a helluva job for the interval!) --- and if you only know ONE stage direction from all of theatre ("Exit, pursued by a bear"), then be prepared to find a far more active bear this time around.

All in all, a thoroughly enchanting production -- the ensemble take up residence in New York from July 2011. Anyone fancying a trip would well enjoy the opportunity.

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