After serving up modern stagings of The Tempest and Pericles (both still in rep), Shakespeare's Globe reverts to doublet and hose for John Dove's enjoyable "original practices" version of The Winter's Tale.
It's a straightforward affair. For my taste, the Globe has yet to crack the problem of how to communicate a sense of darkness, danger and mental isolation in the daylight world of this theatre. The lonely, unhinged murderousness of Leontes's jealousy fails to chill the heart, despite Paul Jesson's ranting efforts, and the arraignment of Hermione (an unsubtle Yolanda Vazquez) lacks the requisite unsettling feel of a show trial.
The production livens up with the move to Bohemia and the pastoral festivities of Act V. But the play's beautifully gauged modulation from tragedy to comedy is compromised here. The interval is traditionally placed so as to leave the story suspended just after the discovery of baby Perdita and of the gold by the Old and Young Shepherds. It seems to me far more dramatically effective to leave it where Shakespeare put it - with the tantalising shift of tone created by this rural comic double-act and the sense of mystery about what will happen next.
Dove's production, however, presses on. In a black cape and hood, Roger Mc-Kern's self-amused Time appears before the break and presides over the scene where Polixenes resolves to spy on his son. Having given away the play's temporal jump, it adds insult that this Time informs the audience that there will be "a 16 [arch pause] minute interval".
This Tale has many admirable features. Penelope Beaumont is an outstanding Paulina, the lady who squares up to the murderously jealous monarch and becomes the artfully placed stone in his shoe. She has commanding stage presence and exudes imperious sanity, although I did miss that cryptic playfulness that makes you feel Paulina is in secret cahoots with the playwright. Juliet Rylance brings a lovely freshness and ardour to the role of Perdita, while Philip Bird as Camillo and Sam Alexander as the Young Shepherd give exquisitely understated comic performances.
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