BWW Review: THE WINTER'S TALE, Globe Player
The Winter's Tale? Never an easy one on which to get a read. As one would expect at the Globe, Blanche McIntyre pares back its often overwrought and dominant bucolic middle act to good effect, but it's as slippery as ever. Just when you think a tone is established, it's through your fingers and away - probably ol' Shakey's intention, the sly fox.
In a fit of jealous paranoia, Leontes, the King of Sicilia, accuses his lifelong friend Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, of adultery with his wife, the decent and worthy Hermione. Their daughter is spirited away, Hermione imprisoned and reported dead, Leontes has regrets and 16 years pass.
The lark is on the bough and larks are exactly what's up in Bohemia, with dodgy geezer Autolycus leading the frolics and Prince Florizel falling for lowly shepherdess, Perdita (you won't need too many guesses to discover she's no mere Little Bo Peep). There's more royal disapproval, this time from Polixenes, before a statue, a singsong and a happy ever after.
Well, not quite. There's a dead child to account for, wasted years, what looks like clinical depression and plenty more that, if it's not exactly swept under the carpet, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. They're all doing an Brummie version of "The Lambeth Walk" at the end, but this is no Me And My Girl - hence its status as a "problem play". But most people know that before investing the time and money, so fair enough.
This 2018 production gets us up close and personal with both the cast and the groundlings, the mix of close-ups and long shots balancing a need to show facial expressions with the necessity for showing a stage as a stage. Inevitably, some of the acting is a little ripe for the laptop (Becci Gemmell's Autolycus is a mite overcooked in your living room) but this show's migration from Southwark to screen works better than most.
The opening act is the best. Will Keen captures Leontes' spiralling descent into psychopathy with Priyanga Burford playing off him beautifully, as the stakes become clear and she chooses to retain her dignity in the face of madness. Norah Lopez-Holden and Luke MacGregor do what they can as the young lovers, but both parts are somewhat underwritten if truth be told, and Perdita's noble language is a little too much for an uneducated teenage farmer, even one who is really an undercover princess. Adrian Bower is the standout amongst the support - we've seen the loyal, incorruptible minister before in Shakespeare, but Bower gets the world-weariness just right.
The production is presented as part of a schedule of plays made available on the Globe's YouTube channel. Its venue is reported to be in significant financial difficulties, so if you can show it a little love (and maybe a little cash) it'll be most welcome.