The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Royal Shakespeare Company and BBC iPlayer April 2021
live performances, the Royal Shakespeare Company created this production
of The Winter's Tale for BBC4. It is now available on BBC iPlayer.
Tale is a play of three thirds, and it is rare to encounter a production
that does equal justice to all three parts. This one is brilliant in the
first, poor in the second and adequate in the third.
Leontes becomes suddenly convinced his queen is unfaithful with his best
friend and orders the deaths of both and of the baby he believes a
Friend and baby
separately escape, and sixteen years later the young girl, her identity
unknown, falls in love with the friend's son. A final movement brings
everyone back together for reunions, reconciliations and rewards.
Whyman and actor Joseph Kloska collaborate to produce one of the finest
portraits of Leontes I've ever encountered.
This is a man
suddenly and frighteningly possessed by a monster of jealousy
something apart from but within him that frightens even him.
I have seen
angrier Kings and more confidently self-righteous ones (and both
characterisations worked), but never one in so much pain not only from
his dark imaginings but from his helplessness in trying to resist or
escape them. Joseph Kloska rushes about the stage as if trying to run
away from himself.
matched in power by Kemi-Bo Jacobs as the Queen, making her as secure in
her knowledge of her innocence as the King is panicking in his
In the key
trial scene she creates drama in stillness by staring down the court,
the king and the TV camera with the absolute authority of outraged
And then things
start to go wrong. Faced with one of the most infamous stage diections
in world drama one character Exits, pursued by a bear - director
Whyman gives up and tries something symbolic that is just incoherent.
dress, which hadn't bothered us much in the formal court scenes, begins
to get more than a little silly when the itinerant con artist Autolycus
appears on a motorcycle.
Autolycus is a
difficult role the play wants him as a commenting chorus figure while
also using him for comic relief but Anne Odeke is the dreariest
Autolycus I've ever seen, every single gag or witticism falling flat.
Assad Zaman and
particularly Georgia Landers are attractive as the young lovers, but the
whole central section of the play, meant to convey the innocence and
health-giving power of nature and the pastoral life, just lies there
Things pick up
for the last sequence, primarily through the return of Joesph Kloska's
Leontes and Amanda Hadingue as his moral counsellor.
But and I am sure this is deliberate the bittersweet happy ending is somewhat tempered by having Kemi-Bo Jacobs's Hermione (for yes spoiler alert the Queen lives) play the final seconds with a totally in-character coolness.
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