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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Winter's Tale

Nay but this dotage of our general's/O'erflows the measure. — Philo
The Winter's Tale
Greg Hickas As Leontes and Kelly Hunter as Hermione (Photo: Alessandro Evangelista)
David Farr's The Winter's Tale is a great success. His cast have addressed the Roundhouse difficulties of sound and every word is clear and his direction never has an actor blocked for more than a couple of minutes. With these technicalities expertly solved Farr has delivered a haunting production full of exceptional and memorable imagery.

The play opens with a formal dinner at a table with the synchronised omen, the pulling of crackers, the breaking and the snap. Taking as its theme Shakespeare's own loss of his son Hamnet and separation from his wife and daughters, we see Leontes (Greg Hicks) losing his son Mamillius (Alfie Jones/Sebastian Salisbury) and the fall into chaos of the kingdom that was Sicily after jealousy deprives Leontes of everything of value. It is the literal and spectacular collapse of two huge bookcases and the arrival onstage of piles of books and scattered manuscripts, finally crowned by a falling chandelier in the shape of half a globe, that marks out the tragic elements of this enigmatic and imaginative production of Shakespeare's complex tragi-comedy. The jaw dropping impact of this is the stuff of brilliantly effective theatre.

In Act Two the curved glass globe chandelier becomes the hanging vessel for the seated figure of Time (Patrick Romer) to narrate what has happened between the acts. Trees with bronzed papers and books as foliage descend from the flies in a beautiful image of woodland, one housing a flower fairy figure. The Bohemia country revels feature curious creatures in clothes of paper tatters with open books as headdresses, dancing, revealing enormous phalluses. They are quite amazing and alien, harking back to a primitive country ritual before Morris Dancers and Mumming and great fun. So the contrast is achieved between the two settings of The Winter's Tale, the rural spontaneity that is the countryside and the formality of the Sicilian court.

Add to these amazing visuals strong performances and this has to be an award winning production. Starring is Greg Hicks as Leontes, a king with so much to regret. He's a masterly speaker of Shakespeare's verse with his own inbuilt reverberation as his ponderous delivery seems to make his voice vibrate with emphasis.

TNoma Dumezwemi' is a powerful and passionately loyal Paulina pleading for her wronged mistress, Hermione (Kelly Hunter). I have never seen a Hermione stand as still as Kelly Hunter. Great concentration! Darryl D'Silva's solid Polixenes shows us the problems of being an exacting parent towards his independent son Florizel (Tunji Kasim). Perdita (Samantha Young) and Hermione are well cast and look like mother and daughter. Even the Bear is a massive creature with red lit eyes, his fur coat composed of sheets of brown paper and never before was I so aware of the sacrifice made by Antigonus (James Gale) to save the baby Perdita now in the same glass bowl as a Moses cradle.

Keith Clouston's original and evocative music from the live band in between scenes enriches the atmosphere and has been carefully chosen. Among the most moving moments: Hermione's shocking appearance in soiled prison rags and the slow realisation when it dawns on Leontes the injustice of what he has done and of course the touching reunion of mother and daughter with the sorrowful Leontes.

This is a production not to be missed. And New York audiences will be able to see it next summer at Lincoln Center.

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The Winter's Tale
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Farr

Starring: Greg Hicks, Kelly Hunter, Darrell D'Silva, Noma Dumezwemi, Samantha Young, Brian Doherty
With: Joseph Arkley, John Mackay, Alfie Jones/Sebastian Salisbury, Hannah Young, Simone Saunders, Kirsty Woodward, James Gale, Adam Burton, David Rubin, Phillip Edgerley, Sam Troughton, Paul Hamilton, Patrick Romer, Oliver Ryan, Tunji Kasim, Larrington Walker, Gruffudd Glyn
Designed by Jon Bausor
Lighting: John Clark
Music: Keith Clouston
Choreography by Arthur Pita
Sound: Martin Slavin
Director of Puppetry: Steve Tiplady
Aerial Consultant: Lyndall Merry
Company Text and Voice work: Charmian Hoare
Company Movement: Struan Leslie and Luc Cullingford
Assistant Director: Helen Leblique
Music Director: Mark Bousie
Running time: Three hours ten minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 800 1110
Booking at The Roundhouse to 1st January 2011and 21 July 2011 - 14 August 2011 Lincoln Centre New York
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th December 2010 performance at The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Road London NW1 5TH November 2010 (Tube: Chalk Farm)

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