The Winter's Tale (Sheffield)

This new production at the Crucible offers strong performances but lacks in magic, says Sophie Bush.

Paul Miller's production is clean, economical and well-acted. Everyone speaks their text with absolute understanding. The play is clearly and precisely communicated to its audience. Everyone is convincing. Everyone is on cue. The pace is good. It just isn't very exciting.

Daniel Lapaine as Leontes and Barbara Marten as Paulina in The Winter's Tale.
Daniel Lapaine as Leontes and Barbara Marten as Paulina in The Winter's Tale.
©Mark Douet

Simon Daw's design is a mixed blessing. The costumes are rich and interesting and the imposing, sterile set works reasonably well to invoke the austere Sicilian court, but is poorly-resourced to support the Bohemian pastoral scenes. Overall, the production's aesthetic seems somewhat disjointed.

To focus on the acting provides a more satisfying experience, with many performances of note. Daniel Lapaine makes for a young Leontes – a nice casting decision that gives his jealousy a fresh feel of youthful, rather than aging, insecurity. Barbara Marten is a striking Paulina: grave, poised and impassioned. Claire Price gives Hermione the strength and dignity she deserves, and Kirsty Oswald's Perdita oozes the youthful vitality that so enchants Florizel. Patrick Walshe McBride is particularly memorable as Perdita's shepherd brother, displaying a physical and vocal dexterity that serves the comic role to perfection. The ensemble, too, are a tight, well-oiled machine.

There's just something a bit frustrating about a production that is almost perfect on a technical level, but never generates enough of a spark to really ignite the imagination. For a magical tale intended to while away a long winter's night, there is too little magic to be had.

– Sophie Bush