The Winter's Tale
by William Shakespeare
May 19th - 26th, 2001
The Tower Theatre Company performing at the Tower Theatre, Canonbury
Lords of Sicilia
Paulina, wife to Antigonus : Jeanette Clarke
Ladies in Waiting
Attendant : John Stivey
Director : John Edmunds
Set Design : Rebecca Vincent
Lighting Design : Laurence Tuerk
Costume Design : Nigel Martin
has returned to the Tower, having many years ago awakened us to
classical French drama, to give us a carefully considered and disciplined
production of The Winter's Tale, which was subsequently presented
at the Jardin Shakespeare in Paris.
The long text was cut to two hours which, despite some grieving among the judicious, was most likely sufficient caviare for a general Parisian audience grappling with plot and language in the open air.
Scenes were linked by lush 19th century orchestral music which, working with the accelerated plot, evoked a Verdi-like treatment of the passions of the main characters and hinted further that we can now only view them through the psychological insights of a later era.
The personal conflicts explored by the neo-Platonism of the 17th century through myth, romance and legend we also view as disclosures of the consulting room requiring scientific analysis. It was an interesting approach to emphasise the character and motives of the principal participants and to let pass some of the theatrical delights of telling the tale, in order to ease the crossing of the divide between the Renaissance and us, and it succeeded in leading the audience to focus on and identify with the main themes of the play.
The play was well directed and the principal parts were well played. Emmeline Winterbotham as Hermione combined unquestionable integrity, that easily convinced us of her innocence, with a charm and spirit that might arouse jealousy. In the equivocal rôle of Polixenes, Richard Pedersen certainly spoke the part with clarity and power, but straightforward speaking of the part, although not in conflict with the text, does little to inflame Leontes' jealousy.
I suggest the actor needed to portray overt sexual attraction and some of the cold determination he later reveals in dealing with his son, to push the less assured Leontes into finding, perhaps without fully realising it himself, that after a long visit he does not like or trust his old friend.
However the jealousy of Leontes is aroused, which must be a speculative but essential part of a modern production, John Morton's playing of the rôle as a refined introspective turning to destructive amoral frenzy when he thinks that he has lost all he holds most dear and reverting to exaggerated contrition, was internally consistent and provided a convincing basis for the ensuing action. It was also a pleasure to follow his mastery of some of Shakespeare's most complex imagery and syntax.
Jeanette Clarke was a splendid, triumphant Paulina, fervent and candid, and her Camillo of Alexander Gordon Wood was just the sort of quiet, decent fellow that might make her a discreet and supportive consort.
Though individual parts were well played, the rustics and Autolycus needed more ensemble direction to transform the spirit of the piece from winter psychosis to midsummer madness. Suzanne Marie Taylor lifted the spirits with her easy silvery voice and light innocence.
In a romance her lover should be taller than her, but despite this disadvantage, Daniel Honeywell proved himself a boldly committed suitor. Peter Novis's Autolycus was much cut, but the essential venal roguery was there. Brice Pitt as the shepherd and John Stivey as his son anchored the Bohemian scenes in merriment and it is always nice to see Alison Liney in any part or gender.