Star rating – 7/10
The Winter’s Tale is the story of Leontes, King of Sicilia, who wrongly accuses his wife Hermione of having an affair with his close friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia. It is tragic and comic in equal measure, as the results of his grave error result in the death of his son and heir, and of his queen too. She leaves a baby girl, Perdita, whom Leontes disowns, and who grows up far away in Bohemia, unaware of her heritage. So you could say he makes a right mess of things.
The all male Propeller theatre company are performing it on tour, and there is therefore the obvious issue of having no women actors for the key female roles. I’m not at all sure it worked too well here – although Richard Dempsey playing Hermione was the best thing about the first scenes in Sicilia. He was the only one who really got to grips with the power of the Shakespearian language and lyrical cadences of the play, especially during the tragic trial scene. But the lovely young Perdita played by a man? – it didn’t really work for me, and I’m not so sure why it should.
In general Sicilia did not really come to life, but the later Bohemia parts were much better. The mini Glastonbury type festival setting really worked as director Edward Hall used great humour, interpretation and fun to good effect. There were some very funny parts, notably John Dougall and Karl Davies as a peasant and his son. Tony Bell as an aging rock god Autolycus in ill advised leather trousers was especially hilarious and scene stealing. I didn’t think I would ever experience a rendition of a Beyoncé song in a Shakespearian play but it really worked.
Overall this is a good production, with many strengths, a few flaws, and some bad ass sheep costumes to boot. And I’m sure having no female cast members is much less of an issue in their other current companion production, Henry V.