Review: The Winter's Tale
Review by Angella Marzola-Browne
Just as winter begins to arrive in St. Andrews, The Winter’s Tale follows. Directed by Caitlin Morris, the archaic language did not hinder the recognisable storyline: a jealous husband believes his wife to have had an affair with his lifelong best friend, leading to a tragedy that is ultimately resolved in true Shakespearean fashion through the revealing of secrets and fixing of misunderstandings. The first hour of the play was every part a true tragedy, exemplified by Daniel Jonusas’ impressive ability to cry on demand and then change emotion completely for the next scene, as well as the icy fury of Annabel Steele towards the cruel King of Sicilia. However, this was offset by the introduction of the hilarious double act of Georgie Turner and Timo Marchant, with a necessary mention to Morgan Corby for setting the tone of the second act by immediately stealing a sip of beer from an audience member’s drink as he walked onto the stage, much to the delight of the crowd who then had to be told to stop laughing so that he could begin.
Immediately noticeable to me was the attention to detail throughout the play; the two friends Leontes and Polixenes wore grey and burgundy, but with the colours of their ties and suits inverted, which I thought was a simple yet clever way to link the two characters and reiterate their relationship as almost brothers, making their estrangement more emotional (costumes by Kat Reynders & Noemie Jouas). The way the actors moved was also clearly considered; the stage was a square outlined by fabric hanging from the centre of the ceiling and pulled outwards, draping down to form corners and with the audience seated along the four sides. The actors utilised these corners to create a sense of parallelism; if one actor moved to a corner, another would move opposite, ensuring that all available space was filled out as well as being visually appealing and symmetrical. This was most obvious during Camillo and Polixenes’ tense discussion on the jealous Leontes, and really aided in intensifying the anxiety caused by the his actions. Unfortunately, while the fabric helped define the borders of the stage, it also obstructed the view of those on the ends of the rows in the audience, preventing a clear line of sight to the actors when in a corner and undermining the point of staging the play in the round.
The actors themselves were highly skilled, speaking their lines with the fluidity of a true Elizabethan. Similarly, the lighting (Grace Cowie & Joshua Undy-Jamison) was highly effective, from the flashing to emulate a storm to the cool blue and vibrant yellow that swathed the stage with colour and reflected the tone of the scene. Most memorable was Paulina’s terrible anger and grief towards Leontes following Hermione’s imprisonment, which was bathed in blue and emphasised the tragedy of the consequences of his actions. Music was also artfully used, particularly during Hermione’s return in the final scene. However, due to the play being in the round, the blinding lights could also be distracting from the action on stage, which was a shame considering the skill of the performances. Certain elements of the action were also unclear, such as the famous scene where Antigonus exits “pursued by a bear”; while a fake bear would have detracted from the serious nature of the play, his departure and subsequent death at the hands of said bear was almost unnoticeable until mentioned by the Clown later on. Despite this, a huge amount of effort had clearly been put into producing the play, and it was obvious in the final bows that each member of the cast had had an amazing experience being a part of it.