The Winter's Tale

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland

08/04/2009 - 12/04/2009

Production Details


The second production in this stunning Bridge Project is Shakespeare’s rich tragicomedy The Winter’s Tale; a magical testament to the follies of hasty judgment and the force of love as a means of reconciliation played out through disintegrating royal friendships and inklings of adultery.

Without cause, Leontes, King of Sicilia, convinces himself his wife Hermione and best friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, are having an adulterous affair. Unmoved by the Queen’s pleas of innocence, the King in a jealous rage destroys his family and his actions will resound across generations. Only Leontes’ daughter, Perdita, left for dead as a child, will redeem this tale.

"Thou met’st with things dying, I with things new-born."

Old Shepherd, Act 3

The Winter’s Tale, known for the memorable stage direction by Shakespeare "Exit, pursued by a bear", is a wonderful blend of tragic deeds, innocent romance and delightful humour.

"… pure emotional strength that leaves you open mouthed and teary eyed." The New York Times

Josh Hamilton, Richard Easton, Ethan Hawke, Simon Russell Beale, Rebecca Hall, Sinéad Cusack

FREE Artist Talk with Simon Russell Beale and Josh Hamilton
Hosted by Silo Theatre’s Artistic Director, Shane Bosher
5.15pm to 6.00pm, Thursday 9 April
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Owens Foyer level only
NOTE: Stalls only, Seating subject to availability.

150 minutes including interval
Special Info: A specially designed theatre sound system will be used during THE BRIDGE PROJECT
Dates & Times:
Wednesday 8 – Saturday 11 April 8.00pm
Saturday 11 April 1.00pm
Sunday 12 April 7.00pm

Category 1      $175.00*
Category 2      $150.00*
Category 3      $130.00*
Category 4      $110.00*
Category 5      $85.00*
Category 6      $50.00*
Telephone Bookings:  09 357 3355
or 0800 BUYTICKETS (0800 289 842)
*Service fee will apply


Set design Anthony Ward
Costume design Catherine Zuber
Lighting design Paul Pyant
Hair & wig design Tom Watson
Sound design Paul Arditti
Music Mark Bennett
Music Director Dan Lipton
Musicians Dana Lyn & Aaron Krohn
Choreography Josh Prince
Casting Nancy Piccione and Maggie Lunn
Production Stage Manager Jane Pole


LEONTES, King of Sicilia Simon Russell Beale*
HERMIONE, Queen to Leontes Rebecca Hall*
MAMILLIU S, young Prince of Sicilia Morven Christie*
CAMILLO, Lord of Sicilia Paul Jesson*
ANTIGONUS, Lord of Sicilia Dakin Matthews
PAULINA, wife to Antigonus Sinéad Cusack*
CLEOMENES, Lord of Sicilia Gary Powell*
DION, Lord of Sicilia Michael Braun
LORD of Sicilia Mark Nelson
SERVANT of Sicilia Aaron Krohn
JAILER Gary Powell*
EMILIA, lady-in-waiting to Hermione Hannah Stokely*
LADY-IN-WAITING to Hermione Charlotte Parry
GENTLEMEN Aaron Krohn, Mark Nelson, Gary Powell*
POLIXENES, King of Bohemia Josh Hamilton
FLORIZEL, Prince of Bohemia Michael Braun
PERDITA, daughter to Leontes and Hermione Morven Christie
OLD SHEPHERD, reputed father of Perdita Richard Easton
YOUNG SHEPHERD, his son Tobias Segal
AUTOLYCUS, a rogue Ethan Hawke
TIME Richard Easton
MARINER Mark Nelson
BEAR Gary Powell*
MOPSA, a shepherdess Charlotte Parry
DORCAS, a shepherdess Jessica Pollert Smith*
SERVANT of Bohemia Aaron Krohn
SHEPHERDS and SHEPHERDESS Dakin Matthews, Mark Nelson, Gary Powell*, Hannah Stokely*

Autolycus, Jailer, Bear, Lord Michael Braun
Florizel, Young Shepherd, Cleomenes, Aaron Krohn
Mariner, Lord, Camillo, Antigonus, Old Shepherd, Time Mark Nelson
Hermione Charlotte Parry
Mamillius, Perdita, Emilia, Lady-in-Waiting Jessica Pollert Smith
Leontes, Polixenes, Servant of Bohemia, Lord Gary Powell
Servant of Sicilia, Dion Tobias Segal
Paulina, Mopsa, Dorcas Hannah Stokely

The British Actors (denoted with *) are appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association. The American Actors (names without *) are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating Variety Artistes' Federation, pursuant to an exchange programme between American Equity and UK Equity. The Producers gratefully acknowledge Actors' Equity Association for its assistance with this production.



Tale of tyranny a rare treat

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 14th Apr 2009

Hard on the heels of the Auckland Festival, the city has been blessed with a taste of the world’s finest theatre in the Bridge Project. It boasts the creme de la crème of trans-Atlantic acting talent convened under the inspiration of director Sam Mendes whose phenomenal career has been honoured with both an Academy Award and the Olivier Outstanding Achievement Award. 

The Winter’s Tale appealed to Mendes for the way it shows Shakespeare pushing the boundaries as he approached the end of his career and the production displays a boldness of interpretation that is matched by a meticulous attention to stage craft. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Paranoia, pathos and wicked comedy: a play of two halves

Review by Sian Robertson 10th Apr 2009

The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakepeare’s lesser-known plays – about a paranoiacally jealous king and the havoc he wreaks on his family in his fight to vindicate himself. It’s a tale of knee-jerk righteousness, revenge, remorse, forgiveness and rebirth, with a gruelling but engrossing first half and an almost gratuitously happy ending in which pretty much everything is put right.

The opening Act sees Leontes (Simon Russell Beale), the King of Sicilia trying in vain to convince his childhood friend Polixenes (Josh Hamilton), the King of Bohemia, to remain a while longer in Sicilia. Polixenes feels he has neglected his kingdom in the nine months he has been away and longs to see his son again. Hermione, Queen of Sicilia (Rebecca Hall), playfully tricks Polixenes into accepting their hospitality for another week, where the King has failed, and Leontes becomes suspicious, immediately jumping to the conclusion that they have been having an affair.

Leontes’ courtiers appeal to the King’s sense of reason, but he has clearly lost all sense of perspective. Despite denials from the accused and a complete lack of evidence, Leontes is convinced and launches into a destructive rampage, ordering that Polixenes be poisoned, his heavily pregnant and faithful wife be locked in a cell awaiting execution and then that his newborn daughter be abandoned in the wilderness. His son Mamillius (played charmingly by Morven Christie) dies of an illness brought on by the horror of the events.

Simon Russell Beale is a master of wringing out the utmost emotional intensity, while in the same breath exposing his character for a foolish jealous old man, poking fun at his obsession by means of impeccable comic timing. The King’s sense of isolation from his family is thrown into sharp relief by a pallid spotlight, under which Leontes allows his tyrannical foolishness to run wild, which is simultaneously heart wrenching and humorous.

It turns out that the baby girl survives and is brought up in Bohemia as Perdita, the daughter of a shepherd. The second half of the play weaves her story, 16 years later, with her father’s. Perdita (Jessica Pollert Smith) and Polixenes’ son Prince Florizel (Michael Braun) are in love, though Perdita foresees trouble for their class-defying romance. Polixenes, outraged at the match, forces them into exile. The lovers end up seeking refuge in far-off Sicilia.

Now and then the actors’ lines are a bit muffled in the cavernous ASB Theatre, especially when they are not directly facing the audience. However, most of the cast are a match for the challenging acoustics, notably the excellent Rebecca Hall, whose words are not only crystal clear but imbued with a naturalism and confidence. On the other hand Josh Hamilton, while he embodies a well-realised Polixenes, lets some of his lines get lost – he speaks quickly and his voice doesn’t carry as far as the other main actors’ – exacerbated by the convoluted Shakespearean vernacular which takes a while to adjust your ears to.

Paul Jesson (Camillo), who is no stranger to The Winter’s Tale, having performed various characters in three other productions, and Dakin Matthews (Antigonus) were favourites of mine. Sinéad Cusack also gives a strong performance as Hermione’s fiery friend and advocate Paulina.

Paul Arditti’s sound-scape conjures the appropriate moods with a combination of pre-recorded music and sound effects, musicians in the wings creating a sense of suspense with bells, gongs and a violin, and Bohemian minstrels strumming sweet chords on guitars.

The smart costumes, designed by Catherine Zuber, aren’t era-specific, aimed somewhere around the late 1800s, and are understated rather than elaborate, lending a welcome sobriety to this larger-than-life tragi-comedy.

The set achieves a lovely balance of charm and functionality. Wintery skies form a striking backdrop for the outdoor scenes. The scene changes are seamlessly choreographed to allow the story to flow from one scene to the next. Speaking of choreography, director Sam Mendes has given commendable consideration to the positions of the actors on the stage, making their placement seem totally natural while lending itself to audibility and dramatic interplay.

Surprisingly, given the pathos of the first two Acts, comedy comes to the fore in the second half. The first half, up until the interval, is fraught with angst. The second is by comparison a frivolous romp, appealing to simpler tastes: a syrupy romance is introduced, a man-eating bear, as well as comic-relief characters.

For example Ethan Hawke’s fastidiously dishonest lone-wolf pick-pocket Autolycus (a character reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s pirate Jack Sparrow) is wickedly amusing and eloquently fly (in the British rather than the American sense of the word). Without him the Bohemia segment would become a bit tedious. Tobias Segal as the shepherd’s son is also worth mentioning for his energetic physical comedy.

Bohemia has been given a New World feel, its people are shepherds and farmers who delight in simple pleasures. A scene depicting a raunchy square dance with phallic/bosomy balloon appendages got instant applause, about as hearty a response as any of the scenes of emotional depth in the first half, which speaks for itself, really.

* * * spoiler warning * * *
The ending is decidedly odd, winding back the clock by bringing a statue of the Queen to life. My (unanswerable) question is: is this supposed to be a magical resurrection, or did she actually fake her own death? The queen’s death happens offstage and is reported by Paulina, who also happens to be the one who ‘makes the statue move’ in the last scene. We never see Hermione’s corpse, only the king’s grief-stricken reaction to the news. Other key events are portrayed in this way – the news of Mamillius’ death is brought by a servant who interrupts Hermione’s trial to let them know Mamillius’s illness has finished him off. There is nothing explicit in the text or in this interpretation of it to suggest the Queen’s death was a ruse, though, so I’m content to assume it’s an allegory for forgiveness and rebirth and the healing power of time. (Suitable Easter fare!)
* * * spoiler ends * * *

The miraculous redemption at the end mitigates all the bad blood too easily for my liking. I would have been content for the blunders of the older generation to be washed away by time and the next generation’s clean slate. But this is Shakespeare, after all, a storyteller who rarely let himself be restricted to the realm of the likely!

Most of the Bohemians are played by American actors and the Sicilians by British actors – I’m not sure if this was a conscious decision, and anyway there are exceptions to the rule, but it succeeds in creating a sense of the two nationalities in the play. Regardless, the entire cast including minor supporting roles, are first-class professionals, and it’s a treat to see such a hotbed of international talent convened under one roof.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Sam Snedden April 13th, 2009

 Her death was faked. In the scene where the four gentlemen are on the bench one mentions that Paullina has retired to the house hence three times a day since the death of Hermione. Paulina faked her death in order to protect her from Leontes, they also mentioned in the last scene that she (Hermione) is now old, i.e. she is not a statue that has come to life but a wife and mother who has waited for the right moment to emerge.
Also I have never found the end of this play trite or tied in a bow so to speak, it is far more complex and ambiguous then it seems at first glance. This production highlighted that ambiguity beautifully to my eye there was a chance of reconciliation at the end but Hermione's forgiveness was still doubtful. It is easily the best production of a classic piece that I have ever seen. 

Dane Giraud April 13th, 2009

I thought, overall, this was a great production - moving, committed, clear and vibrant. I would question the need to play Leontes quite so hysterical - possibly a real sense of danger was missing in Simon Russel Beale (I would have preferred frightening to foolish, and he certainly was never frightening).  
Could Hermione have been more hysterical? Why so much dignity? I guess, because we all know the character is wronged a directors own sense of moral justice looks to ensure her the higher ground, but it is a choice that makes the playing of Leontes all the more difficult. 
But, these points aside, this really was 1st class stuff. 
Another point of note for me was how integrated the whole production was, as if every choice made fed into a living organism... This level of artistry cannot be taught, bought or bluffed.
And the clown (Ethan Hawke) was funny! A revelation actually.
Boy it's nice to cry real tears in a theatre rather than want to kill the entire cast... and audience! (so that no memory of what was seen remains...). Thank you all so much.  

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