Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Winter's Tale" - May 2007

Neither of us are huge Shakespeare fans but we'd been meaning to catch a performance by RSAMD students for some time and were given a nudge by Bluedog in our Pay Less See More post, so off we trotted to see "The Winter's Tale" at The Arches in Glasgow.

Concerned I might have difficulty with the dialogue I hit the internet in advance for a brief summary of the characters/plot to give me a helping hand and while doing so I repeatedly saw the play described as one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays in that it swings unevenly from a serious drama to a comedy never fully meshing the aspects.

One of The Arches more cavernous spaces was our venue with a fairly plain staging with minimal props and an audience on three sides. We're quickly introduced to three of our leads with the insecure King Leontes (Andy Root) fretting over the perceived affair between his wife Hermione (Roisin Gallagher) and his friend King Polixenes (Alan Burgon). Root is initially a little on the loud side for the venue when working up a bluster producing unwanted echoes but tones this down as the play progresses. Burgon gives a measured performance pitched well for the venue and shows genuine bewilderment at the situation he finds himself in, while Gallacher had obvious stage presence from the outset.

Fergus Johnston as Antigonus and Alan Lindsay as Camillo give depth to their roles but it's Jenny Hulse as Pauline who really commands the attention both of the characters and audience with a female character who is so strong throughout it's difficult to believe it's Shakespeare.

The interval sees changes of character and set with 16 years having passed and also with a huge swing in tone to the comedic. The new "outdoors" set is inspired and while there must have been a temptation to temper the comedic elements the production chose to play them up instead with brilliant results. Michael Goldsmith's Jim Carrey -esque Autolychus works well, and the song and dance number (yes you did read that right) had the whole audience grinning. Edward Corrie was particularly convincing as the Old Shepherd, while the conclusion once more gives Hulse a chance to shine which she grabs firmly with two hands and plays it perfectly with a conspiratorial nod to the audience.

The rest of the cast performed well in supporting roles and with good use of costumes, lighting and music, my only complaint about the production is that at times it didn't consider the audience at the sides of the stage. Given a bit more thought there could have been a few less backs to the audience, although Gallacher, Burgon, Hulse and Goldsmith did make repeated efforts to engage the audience on all sides.

An enjoyable evening with a cast obviously comfortable with both the psychological and humourous elements and it certainly won't be the last time we see an RSAMD show.

As an added bonus we also got to see some of the "Micro Shakespeare" youth productions before the show as part of the "Shakespeare in the City" programme. With four "installations" some were more obvious than others but the "I want to be..." segment was particularly amusing with the cast definitely playing to their audience.

1 Heckle

Waldorf said...

Unlike Statler I hadn't read up on the play beforehand (some of us actually work for a living!) so went in completely cold.

This was only my second 'live' Shakespeare (the first being A Midsummer Night's Dream). And as Hamlet, Macbeth and Julius Caeser were the ones I'd done (mumble) years ago at school I'd no idea what to expect.

I initially struggled a bit with the dialogue. Archaic idioms, echo-ey space and actors with their back to me (NB director - if it's a thrust stage remember sightlines for those at the side) conspiring against me. However once my ears adjusted it became much easier to follow things.

The first act is Hardy in it's gloom, with the second act more like Austin. The change in tone is noticeable, but it didn't particularly jar.

I've not really much to add with regards the performances, as I believe Statler's covered that well. However the sheep shearing feast (with nods to Deliverance) does deserve a special mention as a highly entertaining set piece.

One final thing - special mention for those responsible for wardrobe. The costumes all worked very well.