The Winter’s Tale is seen as one of Shakespeare’s trickier plays; it’s a tragicomedy, dipping its toes into both genres with neither cancelling the other out. The play moves from the Court of Sicilia – where the jealous King Leontes wrongly accuses his pregnant wife Hermione of having an affair – to the pastoral lands of Bohemia – where Perdita, the daughter of Leontes and Hermione, is raised by simple country folk – before all are reunited and order is restored at the Court. With themes of forgiveness, shifting attitudes between generations and aspirations to ascend beyond a current socio-economic state, it’s as timeless a story as all of the Bard’s best work.
Beyond costume choices (suits or togas for the court, trendy dresses paired with trainers or pineapple shirts and shorts for the pastoral) and the funny execution of the famous stage direction ‘exit pursued by a bear’, McIntyre’s direction seems largely invisible. Yes, the narrative is easy to follow and it provides a chance to hear Shakespeare’s text spoken clearly and passionately, but it doesn’t offer anything new. Music was also kept to a minimal; a sparse beat of a drum or drone of a bass clarinet in the court, and a brief interlude of gypsy jazz during the pastoral dance. But that really was it.
The production’s flatness is arguably all the more notable coming so soon after the dazzling numbers and colourful fanfare of Rice’s reign. Or the fact Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 West End production of The Winter’s Tale seemed to get it all so right. McIntyre has a reputation as a sparky, exciting director – she won the Critics’ Circle award for most promising newcomer in 2012 – so it's a shame not more of her boldness is infused into this production.
What fuelled the play, though, were several noteworthy performances. Norah Lopez-Holden was particularly good; lively, passionate and youthful in her main role as Perdita, yet affectionate and maternal in her earlier role playing with the young prince Mamillius (an adaptable Rose Wardlaw). Sirine Saba carried us through the tougher emotional moments as a rather ‘woke’ Paulina; strong, unwavering and witty, together with Howard Ward’s Antigonus, she lifts the mood and has us laughing every time matters get too dark.
Will Keen captures Leontes’ insecurities and jealousy-to-the-point-of-madness with his erratic, jumpy movements, but a slight tendency to mumble meant that passages were occasionally hard to catch. The ascension of the Old Shepherd (Annette Badland) and her son (Jordan Metcalfe) to gentlefolk is well executed; the pair appeared with gold, Elizabethan robes draped across their bodies and smug smiles slapped across their faces, winning approving laughs from the audience.
While the energy picks up in the second half of the play, it remains hard to spot what McIntyre’s direction brings to the text. Sure, this is a chance to enjoy Shakespeare’s text delivered purely – ideal for students and tourists in the audience – but the final, fist-pumping dance suggests more spark was intended for this production that ultimately got lost along the way.
|What||The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s Globe review|
|Where||The Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Blackfriars (underground)|
22 Jun 18 – 14 Oct 18, Times vary
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|