The Winter’s Tale - Theatre Review

A merry and miraculous production of THE WINTER’S TALE sees the Royal Shakespeare Company bring festive cheer to the Roundhouse in Camden.

UNLIKE the minimalist staging of this winter’s hugely acclaimed King Lear at The Donmar starring Derek Jacobi, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) latest Winter’s Tale has a lavish set, colourful costumes, musicians, dancers, and even a giant bear puppet.

Its plot seems destined to be as bleak as any tragedy until miraculous events bring second chances and a happy ending. The play was one of Shakespeare’s last, and sits uncomfortably in the Comedies section of the First Folio, published in 1623.

Greg Hicks’ jealous King Leontes retains a charming vulnerability even when mistakenly accusing his wife Hermione of adultery and treason, casting her out to her presumed death, and abandoning his baby daughter to the wilderness. The audience laughed when he called her funny-sounding insults like “slippery” and “bed-swerver” – pathetic insults too, given he’s in the wrong.

Walkways jutting from the round stage bring actors into the audience, especially during the clown scenes in the second half when the RSC’s musicians descend from the orchestra above the stage and become part of the play.

Such merry-making plus the “happy” ending left a warm glow as we left the Roundhouse into the freezing snow outside. The Winter’s Tale is one of a feast of six RSC productions here this festive season.

* Showing at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm Road, NW1, until Friday, January 1.