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The Winter’s Tale – The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London

Writer: William Shakespeare

Adaptor and Director: Ross McGregor

Reviewer: Joanna Trainor

 

Aptly performed on a freezing December evening, Ross McGregor’s adaptation of The Winter’s Tale offers a contrasting vibrant and dark take on Shakespeare’s classic.

After convincing himself that his wife is having an affair with a neighbouring King, Leontes must live with his guilt, awaiting the impossible return of his lost daughter.

Elizabeth Appleby’s portrayal of Hermione is brilliant. Heart-felt, strong, but ultimately betrayed, her speech in defence of her actions is so engaging. Her mental and physical pain is difficult to watch, but her command of the language makes it impossible not to.

Robert Myles’ energy as Autolycus seems other worldly. Bouncing around the stage, using different accents, singing, rapping, it is difficult to keep up with him. His humour and performance give the second act a much needed lift after the dark storm that ends the first.

The staging is a little disappointing. Set in traverse, it has a raised block, stage right that is almost completely concealed by two seats. During Leontes breakdown, or the bear’s appearance, you simply cannot see what is happening. This is particularly upsetting because of how raw Christopher Neels, as the jealous King’s, performance is. Writhing in agony as the fate of his wife and child are revealed, you are desperate to see his facial expressions, but instead are just met with his bottom in the air, and the heads of the two people who would have turn round to see what was happening. Obviously traverse means that there are certain angles that work better depending on where you are sitting, but the moments they stage on this block are too important for two thirds of the audience not to be able to see what’s going on.

The Steam Punk theme gives the opportunity for some beautiful costumes. Top hats, goggles, waistcoats, everything has been thought of, and the rest of the production element takes its lead from that, making it look very well put together. At first it is difficult to see what the theme adds to the play, other than making it aesthetically pleasing, however by the second act it reinforces the eccentric, non-time specific world these characters are living in.

“Exit pursued by a bear,” is arguably the best stage direction ever written by Shakespeare, and with the company’s puppetry skills the moment is very visually impressive. The bear is puppeteered by at least four members of the cast, walking on all fours at first and then standing to reveal the extent of its size. Their movements and noises are perfect for the creature, and with the addition of the strobe lighting it is a little frightening. It is terrible to nit-pick, but the line isn’t “Exit mauled by a bear,” however.

Ross McGregor has adapted Shakespeare in a way that keeps it true to the script, but adds an alternative, modern twist through music, lighting, costume, that really brings the piece alive. It is just a real shame to have to miss large chunks of it.

Runs until the 3rd January 2015| Photo: Davor Tovarlaza

Writer: William Shakespeare Adaptor and Director: Ross McGregor Reviewer: Joanna Trainor   Aptly performed on a freezing December evening, Ross McGregor’s adaptation of The Winter’s Tale offers a contrasting vibrant and dark take on Shakespeare’s classic. After convincing himself that his wife is having an affair with a neighbouring King, Leontes must live with his guilt, awaiting the impossible return of his lost daughter. Elizabeth Appleby’s portrayal of Hermione is brilliant. Heart-felt, strong, but ultimately betrayed, her speech in defence of her actions is so engaging. Her mental and physical pain is difficult to watch, but her command of the…

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