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The Winter’s Tale at Hampton Hill Theatre | Review

The Winter's Tale, Photographer: Sarah Carter
The Winter’s Tale, Photographer: Sarah Carter

I read the synopsis,” said one audience member in the foyer bar after the show – one is helpfully supplied in the programme for this production of The Winter’s Tale, finding it useful as a way of navigating her way through the evening’s proceedings. I must admit to stealing a few glances away from the stage and onto the list of scenes and where each one was set. But, this so-called ‘problem play’ being what it is – tragic to the point of disproportion before the interval, with elements of comedy to the point of overkill after it, is ultimately best enjoyed by sitting back and not paying too much attention to where exactly a scene is – whether inside or outside Leontes’ (Neelaksh Sadhoo) palace, for instance, and in which room. While such details are provided, it is hardly the salient point in a play more mythological than grounded in reality. As the director’s note in the programme points out, if Bohemia were really to be taken to mean a land mass in the present-day Czech Republic, how would a shipwreck take place (in a landlocked region)?

This is a solidly faithful production, at least as far as the text is concerned, with radical reinterpretations left for other productions elsewhere to pursue (or not). To that end, it ebbs and flows perhaps slightly more than it should – and perhaps some more ruthless cutting might have made for a slicker play. The scene changes, mind you, were executed very well, to the point where, quite pleasantly, the dialogue had, on opening night at least, resumed before the inter-scene music had ended. A ‘warning’ in the programme led audience members to believe there would be ‘some bawdy dancing’ at some point. Well, there was, although there was a need for the large cast to be mindful of how much, or rather, how little, performance space they each had, so in the bigger dance numbers things were not so improper as they could have been.

The costumes were impressive, if conventional – it wasn’t exactly difficult to work out, as if the dialogue didn’t make it clear enough, who was royalty. Devoid of the hairdryer treatment of the RSC, private conversations behind closed doors have the appropriate level of volume, low enough to sound conspiratorial but loud enough to be heard by the audience. There was a slight tendency to rattle through lines a tad too quickly – slowing things down just a little would have a negligible impact on the running time while providing crystal clear clarity for what is, at the end of the day, a fairly complex plot.

The stage direction, “Exit, pursued by a bear” (Act III Scene II), is realised satisfactorily, and in the final scene, Alana Wren’s Hermione is convincingly still (those who know the play will know what is meant by this, and those who don’t are welcome to look up the events of Act V Scene III). Steve Webb’s Autolycus makes the most of the character’s lengthy speeches, while Charlie Higgs’ Florizel was highly compelling as the heir to Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Chris Mounsey) for whom love is infinitely more important than heritage.

A twenty-strong cast seemed to enjoy bringing this well-known play to life. This version manages to portray both dark and light aspects of the play in equal measure. A suitably seasonal outing for this revengeful, romantic and reflective production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one of sprites and goblins.
Come and unravel the mysteries of this so-called Shakespearian ‘problem play’. Is it a tragic drama, a pastoral romp or both? A play that moves seamlessly from intense psychological drama to lyrical romantic comedy and finally arrives at a theatrical happy ending. Deliciously entertaining.

Archidamus, Lord, Dorcas – Jo Hayes
Camillo – Matt O’Toole
Polixenes – Chris Mounsey
Leontes – Neelaksh Sadhoo
Hermione – Alana Wren
Mamillius – Toby Ewen
Mamillius – Amelia Beresford
Mopsa, Lady in Waiting – Susan Gerlach
Emilia, Lady in Waiting – Liz Williams
Antigonus, Rural Servant, Lord – Darren Mcilroy
Paulina – Dionne King
Gaoler – Luke Daxon
Court Servant – Eilish Langham
Cleomenes, Lord, Rural Woman – Zoe Arden
Dion, Lord, Rural Woman – Jenny Hazell
Shepherdess – Sue Reoch
Son of Shepherdess – Pe’er – Nicola Doble
Time, Mariner – Fran Billington
Autolycus – Steve Webb
Florizel – Charlie Higgs
Perdita – Melissa Paris

Production Team & Crew:
Director – Michelle Hood
Assistant Director – Cath Messum
Production Manager – Juliette Sexton
Composer and Musical Director – Will Williams
Choreographer – Sophie Hardie
Court Dance Choreographer – Fran Billington
Set Designer – Fiona Auty
Set Construction – Alan Corbett
Set Construction – Terry Stevens
Stage Manager – Harri Osborne
ASM – Kelly-Marie Tuthill
ASM – Inara Stamp
Wardrobe – Mags Wrightson
Additional Wardrobe – Lesley Alexander
Additional Wardrobe – Margaret Boulton
Additional Wardrobe – Margaret Williams
Lighting Designer – Gary Stevenson
Lighting Operator and Set Construction – Patrick Troughton
Sound Designer – John Pyle
Sound Operator – Malcolm Maclenan
Props – Claudia Mower
Photography – Sarah J Carter
Artistic Link – Jenny Ford
BAT Link – Gary Stevenson

The Winter’s Tale
By William Shakespeare
A poignant tale of love lost and found
Sat 26 Jan 2019 to Fri 1 Feb 2019
Hampton Hill Theatre: Main Auditorium


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