There were some periphery cuts made to this reading of The Winter’s Tale, though one might well argue there could have been a few more: despite an interval of a mere six minutes, the reading still finished on the ‘wrong’ side of 10:30pm having started promptly at 7:30pm. That might, however, defeat the purpose of a reading, in which the audience takes whatever it will from the text. Lovers of the Bard’s plays may even find it refreshing to discover a production that hasn’t exactly taken an axe to the script.
As there isn’t much in the way of set, props or costumes (taken literally, this production portrays a bizarre world in which kings dress in much the same manner as their servants and subjects), it is only – laying aside any prior knowledge of the play – by listening that one gets a proper sense of what is happening. In some respects, therefore, this could have been a radio play. I offer no comment at all, frankly, on the manner in which the stage direction, “Exit, pursued by a bear” (Act III Scene III) was realised, and this being a production broadcast on Zoom, Charlotte Hamblin’s Hermione does well to keep as still as the narrative requires in the final scene: or is it a frozen screen? Elsewhere, only a very minor technical gremlin crept in during an early scene, and was swiftly resolved, with the rest of the evening pretty much glitch-free.
The production went for a faithful rendering, without any resetting the play in another place or time, or any other sort of radical reinterpretation. Here, the exchange between Leontes (Mark Quartley) and Camillo (Leo Wringer) was enthusiastic and vibrant, and Paulina (Wendy Morgan) is suitably fierce and confident. Tim Fitzhigham’s Autolycus steals the show with actor-musicianship on a trusty guitar, with inter-scene interludes from Oliver Wass on the harp and Finn Collinson on the recorder. Barnaby Taylor’s Florizel was highly engaging, while Maia Jemmett as his lover Perdita makes the most of the relatively few lines she has.
The play, perhaps alarmingly, still has much applicability with regards to the way in which women and children are sometimes treated, and as well as the repercussions of jealousy. If the second half feels rather slower than the first, it is (I suspect) because the road to restoration and redemption is difficult and painful, and the narrative simply reflects this. Proceedings progress nonetheless at a steady and assured pace, unhurried but never stale.
There are various different ways in which online productions do ‘curtain calls’ – some don’t do them at all, running a rolling list of credits on the screen, as though it were the end of a television programme or a motion picture. The hand waving in this show may seem a little crass at face value (or otherwise call to mind the television game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) but in the end, it served a good purpose: we have been watching a show, and nobody has actually been dumped on the coast for dead or banished to prison. The cast evidently enjoyed themselves in this lengthy but worthwhile production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Following the success of previous livestreams, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, and Sonnets & Carols, Jenny Caron Hall, Artistic Director of SHAKE Festival, directs the latest Zoom rehearsed reading William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
Cast: Phil Aizelwood (Dorcas/Lord), Oliver Cotton (Old Shepherd), Helen Adie (Lady in Waiting/Dorcas/Lord), Ben Elder (Cleomenes/Gaoler/Mariner/Mopsa), Tim Fitzhigham (Autolycus), Alistair Hall (The Clown), Charlotte Hamblin (Hermione), Maia Jemmett (Perdita), Malachy King (various), Katherine MacRae (Emilia/Dorcas), Michael Mears (Antigonus/Third Gentleman.), Pamela Miles (Time/Chorus), Wendy Morgan (Paulina), Mark Quartley (Leontes), Louis B Rhone (First Servant/Lord), David Sturzaker (Polixenes), Barnaby Taylor (Florizel) and Leo Wringer (Camillo) with music from Finn Collinson and Oliver Wass.
The Winter’s Tale
Directed by Jenny Caron Hall
On: Saturday 31 July at 7:30pm (BST)
Livestreamed via Zoom