There is no escaping the weaknesses and plot holes of A Winter’s Tale; intense drama in the first three acts gives way to comedy in the fourth. Director Edward Hall deals with this by making accentuating the differences even further.
The first three acts take place in the sleek surroundings of Sicilia and Leontes accuses his wife of adultery with the King of Bohemia in the candle lit and mirrored rooms of his palace. Having an all male cast does not seem to add much to the play, and the elegant Queen Hermoine might have been better played by a woman.
Vince Leigh’s Paulina, however, is suitably defiant and is stronger than all the sharp suited courtiers that surround the king as she makes her case for the queen.
Where the production comes into its own is the fourth act. Gone are the slick surroundings of Sicilia; Hall has instead interpreted Bohemia as a mini Glastonbury. Tony Bell is a brilliant Autolycus, a pickpocket who looks like an aging rock star in black leather trousers and the shepherds really ham it up as West Country bumpkins. The original dialogue is found to be full of innuendo and never before have sheep featured so prominently in a Shakespeare play, they even have their own band.
The contrast with the sleek Sicilia gets a little too ridiculous at times, but perhaps this is the solution to the problem of the play - if it doesn’t go together at least we can have a bit of fun.
- Joanna Ing