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Review: The Winter’s Tale at the Shakespeare Institute
Culture Critic Holly Reaney reviews an enjoyable production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at the Shakespeare Institute
Stratford-upon-Avon is globally regarded as a beacon of Shakespearean theatre, though the Shakespeare Institute is probably not the first place that comes to mind. However, the Shakespeare Institute Players’ latest performance of The Winter’s Tale definitely lived up to Stratford’s lofty reputation of producing exemplary theatre.
Performing under the watchful eye of the Bard himself, whose bust stood at the head of the stage, the Shakespeare Institute Players produced an intimate performance to an immersed audience. It was like no other theatre I have experienced, with only two rows of the audience in parallel lines on either side of the hall. The Players performed in the centre of the hall amongst the audience instead of being on a separate stage. In Hermione’s trial, we became the court who condemned her and at the bohemian party we became part of the celebration – we were totally immersed in every single moment of the play and carried along upon the turbulent waves of emotion. This paired with the stripped back staging, limited props and absence of technology, created a raw and guttural atmosphere to the play.
“An intimate performance to an immersed audience...
There is often a risk when Shakespeare plays are themed into a distinct era that the theme overpowers the main plot and becomes farcical. However, the 1950s setting was understatedly integrated into the production with the only major markers up until the interval the 1950s costume. In the lighter second half of the play, set sixteen years later, the now 1960s theme was the basis for many humorous sheep based songs such as ‘she loves me baa baa baa’ provided by the seemingly endless musical talents of Jennifer Waghorn as the scheming Autolycus. The use of live and acoustic music fed into the realistic and intimate aesthetic which the staging had already created.
Paulina had an aggressive fire which fuelled the whole play, whilst sometimes being marginalised Molly Lambert ensured that Paulina’s complex emotional situation was foregrounded in a stand out performance of this raw and frankly quite sassy character. This was excellently completed by the aggressively passionate Leontes, played by Alexander Thom. His violent screaming and broken sobs fluctuated at such a rapid rate reinforcing his total steadfast belief in his wife’s infidelity to the extent that it was totally believable.
“...Lived up to Stratford’s reputation for showcasing excellent Shakespearean theatre...
I would wholeheartedly suggest keeping your eye out for future Shakespeare Institute Players’ productions, as their skill and performance definitely lived up to Stratford’s reputation for showcasing excellent Shakespearean theatre.