Pros: Interesting and effective use of music and movement added to the tension.
Cons: The music was sometimes too loud, making it difficult to hear the dialogue.
This version of The Winter’s Tale, abridged to one hour, was a musical reimagining with the intention of ‘layering text, music and movement together to assist in unfolding the narrative’. Much of the music was improvised live within parameters agreed upon beforehand.
The Winter’s Tale is the one where King Leontes convinces himself that his wife, Hermione, has had an affair with his best friend which resulted in the birth of a daughter, Perdita. Leontes later repents, his daughter eventually returns having been brought up by a passing shepherd, and he is reunited with Hermione. It also has the famous stage direction ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’.
There were no props to speak of and a minimalist set occupied by a few flowers and some maypole ribbons above. This suited the production and meant you could concentrate on the action, which was delivered by black-clad, barefoot actors and musicians. The musicians were onstage for the duration, playing a couple of the characters and participating in the delivery of rhythmic movements and beats.
The musicians were excellent and the accompanying music and movement did add an extra layer. It was very atmospheric with an ‘otherworldly’, Ligeti-like quality and really did add to the tension, particularly when Leontes was in the process of convincing himself about Hermione’s infidelity. However — there’s always a ‘however’ somewhere — it was sometimes too loud, so much so that it was difficult to hear the dialogue. This is particularly detrimental to a shortened version of anything, since it is imperative that the audience can keep up with what is happening.
With actors playing multiple parts in the same clothes I was concerned that the characters would morph into each other, but that was not the case. Robert Willoughby and Christopher Adams did particularly well in the ‘problem’ segue to the light-hearted ending, eliciting quite a few laughs from the audience. Louisa Hollway was also memorable as Paulina, being so believable in her outrage at the treatment of Hermione and Perdita that I was starting to feel cross about it too.
I don’t think it is something to see if you don’t already know the play; although edited really well it was still a little bit disjointed and could get confusing. Having said that, on the whole I would say this production worked well. The music and movement being an integral part of the visual performance definitely worked and made it special. If you happen to be around, it is a very interesting and enjoyable way to pass an hour, especially if combined with a visit to the friendly and comfortable Cockpit bar. Personally, if I make an effort to travel to see something I want to see all of it, and I felt a little bit cheated. But that’s also a positive — I wanted more of the same.
Oh, and there was no bear.
Director: Nina Brazier
Writer: William Shakespeare
Producers: Hanna Grzeskiewicz and Heloise Werner
Composer: Kim Ashton
Designer: Sophie Mosberger
Lighting Designer: Damian Robertson
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.