|The Winter's Tale | Propeller|
|Written by Julia Hern|
|Monday, 20 February 2012 03:41|
A combination of innovative direction and brilliant execution made this production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, a fabulous piece of theatre. The cast was made up entirely up of men, but that's presumably the only thing that this production and those of the early 1600s had in common.
Director Edward Hall had no intention of "dumbing down" the text to make it accessible. Instead, his interpretation sought to make each character's journey clear and meaningful so that we, the audience, were easily taken for the ride. The design by Michael Pavelka was contemporary and sleek. Placing the action in the modern era did away with the need for complex costumes and allowed for snappy set changes.
The first act played out as you would expect one of Shakespeare's tragedies to do. With the protagonist Leontes (Robert Hands) so consumed by jealous obsession, he creates a vacuous whirlpool of chaos and suspicion. By the end of the first act, Leontes has destroyed everything he once prized. His wife Hermione, played with sensitivity and grace by Richard Dempsey, was weakened by childbirth and consumed by grief. His son Mamillius (beautifully captured by Ben Allen) was struck down by the gods in retaliation for his father's disrespect. His best friendships with Polixenes and Camillo (played by Nicholas Asbury and Chris Myles respectively), ruined. Or, so we are led to think.
Sixteen years pass during the interval and when we returned to our seats there was an array of musical instruments and microphones set up on stage. The scene had been transported to Polixenes' kingdom of Bohemia, where drinking, dancing and romance were plentiful. Each member of the company played at least 2 or 3 instruments, some also beat-boxed, sang, rapped, harmonised and danced to create an extra-sensory picture of the new time and place.
The second act plays out as one of Shakespeare's comedies would, full of mistaken identities, silly disguises and the stock, "cheeky scoundrel" character, Autolycus (charismatically depicted by Tony Bell) for light relief. The point that defines the genre of this play as one of Shakespeare's "Reunion" group is the joyous conclusion in which (almost) all is forgiven, resurrected and resolved.
I particularly liked the diversity of this show. I enjoyed the way that the first half stayed close to the original script interpretation while the second act used it as merely an indication of the dramatic process. The embellishments using popular music and dance moves were hilarious.
The Winter's Tale is one of the two Shakespearean plays that Propeller (UK) has brought to the Perth International Arts Festival this year. The other is Henry V and they can be booked as a package if you just can't get enough of this stellar company.
The Winter's Tale
by William Shakespeare | adaptation by Edward Hall and Roger Warren
Directed by Edward Hall
Venue: His Majesty's Theatre, Perth
Dates: Feb 17 – 25, 2012
Tickets: $67 – $25
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