Review: The Winter’s Tale

*** sound if not brilliant.

Director: Isabel Taylor
The Alcock Players, Jesus College Orchard, Tues. 16th to Fri. 19th June, 6pm

A warning: this production will mess up what you think theatre is. For most of us, it largely consists of people standing on stages saying things that mean something. Here, we see extended sequences of nothing but blue sheets being waved in the wind whilst a single string of a cello is plucked. The whole thing manages to avoid the pretention inherent in such ideas, and delivers a watchable version of one of Shakespeare’s most complicated plays.

A slight criticism: the acting is a little shaky (as is to be expected from shows rehearsed in the post-exams haze). Luke McMullan’s Leontes is not quite the motivating centre that such a production requires, and the doubling-up of characters across the whole play makes the performance slightly confusing. However, there are snatches of wonderful work. Time’s soliloquy, delivered in a full bear suit, marks a great juncture as the play shifts into Arcadian oddness, whilst Rosy Wiseman’s imaginative creation of several characters signals an effective supporting cast underneath the leads.

Rosy Wiseman as one of her array of characters

The rest of the cast, whilst not individually memorable, deliver a suitably bizarre air, which lends the whole performance the atmosphere the director was evidently hoping to create.

A problem: this production has all the major bits right: the props are incredible, the setting beautiful, the musical interludes perfect and the level of weirdness wonderfully controlled, but the basics are occasionally lacking. The embarrassing pauses between lines, and several other technical problems, mean that it often seems that none of the actors have any idea what is going on, but they more than make up for this with beauty, serious commitment to their parts and exceptional eccentricity.

A recommendation:
see this play. It might not be brilliantly performed, but the thinking behind it is sound and, as they say, when someone is pointing at a star, only a fool looks at the finger.