The Winter’s Tale

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

21/08/2008 - 30/08/2008

Production Details

"It’s like King Lear, only happier … and more complete." First performed in 1611, The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s later plays. Indeed, it seems to return to the themes of Lear – madness, revenge, love, betrayal, exile, and grief – but allows its protagonist to complete his journey.

A short synopsis for the benefit of those – most of us? – who have neither read nor seen the original? A task beyond the ken of great men – after all, if Shakespeare had wanted to write brief plays he would have!

Suffice it to say then that this will be a marvellous opportunity for us all to put that omission to rights as we revel in this tale of love, jealousy and hate, of mistaken assumptions that result in abandonment. Not to mention the most famous stage direction in the Shakespearean canon: "Exit, pursued by Bear!"

And don’t worry, The Winter’s Tale may start out all doom and gloom – or should that be fire and brimstone – but, as in life, the bad times are only short lived; viva la vie Boheme!

Hermione/Time/Mopsa:  Barbara Walsh
Mamillius:  Laniet Swann
Emelia / Perdita:  Sherilee Shackleton
2nd Lady/Camillo/Lord/3rd Gentleman:  Simon Ashby
Leontes:  Paul Ellicot
Polixines/Lord/Servant:  Chris Hopkins
Paulina/Mopsa:  Ellie Swann
Gaoler/Clown/Servant/1st Gentleman:  Alya Maclean
Anitgonus/Autolycus:  Michaela Hunter
Servant/Florizel:  Michelle Fidow
Lord/Shepherd/2nd Gentleman:  Wyeth Chalmers

Technical Director:  Meegan Cloughley
Assistant Set Design &Construction:  Laniet Swann
Costumes:  Leigh Paterson, Ellie Swann, Sandy Wicken
Technical Operation:  Meegan Cloughley, David Coxon
Technical Assistants:  Ellie Warman-Grieder, Ryan Ward
Rehearsal Prompt:  Martin Swann
Poster Design:  Luci McConnon
Publicity:  Roslyn Nijenhuis
Front of House:  Rosemary Beresford
Photography:  Melanie Peters 

A tall Tale: Shakespeare refreshed by a spot of gender-bending.

Review by Anna Chinn 05th Sep 2008

So, King Leontes of Sicilia unreasonably decides his best friend (or occasional lover, as this production of The Winter’s Tale allowed), King Polixines of Bohemia, has been sleeping with Leontes’ wife, Hermione. Maligned, the pregnant Hermione gives birth prematurely and, in the process, stages her death and leaves the kingdom. Leontes orders the sprog be exposed on a beach, after the Greek fashion. The servant who leaves the babe on the shore makes a hasty exit when he is pursued by a bear. In Act 2, what was turning out to be a tragedy suddenly becomes a comedy, and they all live happily ever after.

The full text of this article appears in the NZ Listener (September 6-12 2008), on sale now.
The full text will be available online on Sep 6, 2008. Subscribe online to the NZ Listener.


Make a comment

General exuberance with a few bugbears

Review by Barbara Frame 01st Sep 2008

One of Shakespeare’s later and in some respects more puzzling plays, A Winter’s Tale takes place in a world barely tethered to historical or spatial reality. In this world perfectly amiable kings are unexpectedly overcome by deadly jealousy, courtiers are devoured by bears on wild sea-coasts without a second’s warning, and dreadfully wronged queens spend the best part of two decades in misery before reconciling with their husbands without a murmur of reproach.

In keeping with this dream-like air, director Neal Barber tells us in the programme notes that his version is deliberately not set in Elizabethan times. Instead, he invites the audience to "place your own setting on our sparse set."

And, indeed, neither the set nor the colourful, eclectic costumes hint at any particular time or place. Rough physicality, exaggerated gestures and a determined overlay of sexual ambiguity accentuate the play’s fantastical elements. Excellent lighting design emphasises moods, compensates to some extent for the absence of a more detailed set, and adds to the general exuberance in which Thursday night’s near-capacity audience seemed happy to participate.

The performance suffered a little, especially in the early scenes, from some traditional opening-night bugbears: inaudibility, incomprehensibility, and the odd forgotten line. But mostly the young cast, almost all of whom took on multiple roles, did well. In particular, Paul Ellicot, Ellie Swann and Alya McLean brought confidence and charm to their roles, and Barbara Walsh, poised and ethereally lovely, was a delight as the long-suffering Hermione.


Make a comment

A less-performed Shakespeare play tackled courageously and imaginatively

Review by Terry MacTavish 30th Aug 2008

A sad tale is best for winter, the doomed young prince tells his mother, the falsely accused Queen Hermione, but Shakespeare’s tragedy has confused critics by transforming itself midway into a springtime comedy.  The mostly very young cast of the Globe production of The Winter’s Tale does not seem bothered. The theme is probably their experience anyway: the older generation is unjust and corrupt and has defied the gods and nature. It’s up to the next generation to put things right.

King Leontes of Sicilia is obsessed with the paranoid delusion that his wife is having an affair with his boyhood buddy Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Not waiting for the reply from Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, and furious that Polixenes has escaped (aided by Lord Camillo), Leontes imprisons Hermione and orders her baby daughter exposed on a foreign shore. Too late she is justified; the prince has died of grief, and repentant Leontes is told by the brave and loyal Paulina that his queen too has died. The baby Perdita is lost, presumed dead, and we have seen her ‘exposer’ Antigonus, obedient to Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction, "exit, pursued by a bear".

Sixteen years pass and we find Perdita, raised by a shepherd of Bohemia, is now a natural beauty loved by Prince Florizel, son of Polixenes. With the customary unreasonableness of the older generation, Polixenes forbids the match, so (guided by the ever-helpful Camillo), the lovers flee to Sicilia and Leontes. The scene is set for rediscovery, reconciliation, redemption and of course ultimately regeneration.

The play ends with the extraordinary masque in which Paulina reveals to Leontes the amazingly life-like statue of his wronged queen…

This production as directed by Neal Barber is uneven but appealing, bursting with youthful energy, and in the second half, an appropriate anarchic glee. The mostly formal dress of the first half, set in Sicilia, explodes into a crazily eclectic kaleidoscope of colourful mismatched gender-confused costume, certainly Bohemian by definition – ‘unconventional in behaviour and attire’.

The elegantly sparse set, that served the court scenes well, with the drawing of a curtain becomes the site for the sheep-shearing festivities of earthy yokels. Bohemia’s frolics, like the costumes, are comically fantastical. The lighting is subtly enhancing, especially effective for the trial of Queen Hermione, and good use is made of the Globe’s balcony to stage a dramatic final ‘statue’ scene.

Barber’s calculated queering of the text works surprisingly well, especially where it concerns the irrational paranoid jealousy of Leontes. The play plunges into the plot at top speed, with the king’s muttered ‘Too hot, too hot!’ just a few speeches in, as he suspiciously observes his friend and his wife; and it is all much more credible if we assume that his relationship with the great friend of his youth was indeed a passionate sexual one. As Leontes goes on to say, "Mingling friendship far is mingling blood…"

The speed and urgency have been adopted a bit too enthusiastically and the opening scenes are almost incomprehensibly fast, although we do pick up that Leontes (Paul Ellicot) is psychotically angry and very loud, the Queen (Barbara Walsh) stoic and very pretty, and Polixenes (Chris Hopkins) noble and blessed with more clarity of diction.

In later scenes, Ellie Swann makes a splendidly indignant Paulina, and Simon Ashby a Camillo of great dignity, while Bohemia boasts a charming, sincere Perdita in Sherilee Shackleton, and a hilarious Old Shepherd, her adoptive father, in Wyeth Chalmers. The tricksy rogue Autolycus, reminiscent of Feste and Touchstone, is played with agility by Michaela Hunter.

Shakespeare’s language is actually the old bug-bear that pursues the actors, many of whom struggle to make the verse flow while maintaining a conversational tone, and sometimes the meaning is lost. Nor has Shakespeare made it easier for actors or audience by writing some of the key scenes to be told by messenger characters, in the Greek style, rather than played out.

But it is inspiring to see one of the less-performed plays in Shakespeare’s canon tackled so courageously and imaginatively. As David O’Donnell of Victoria University remarked to Kim Hill last Saturday, Dunedin is a hotbed for the performing arts, and several of the young cast and crew study theatre at Otago University or Aoraki Polytechnic. Barber has succeeded in unifying them into a team with a shared coherent concept, and their delight in performance is palpable.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council