Skip to main content

The Winter's Tale

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

A little boy in a Christmas jumper is the first person you see at the start of Max Webster's new production of Shakespeare's light and shade dramady. Grabbing the spotlight for all it's worth, young Mamillius will wind up book-ending the play in a way that will haunt his parents Leontes and Hermione forever. For now, however, it's the festive season in suburban Sicilia and he can run wild and free in his bear-suit while his mum and dad hold court. Christmas parties being what they are, alas, Leontes' jealousy of his pregnant wife's mild flirtation with his best friend Polixenes sets in motion a train of events that all but destroys the family's cosy existence.

The first half of Webster's modern-dress production is a grimly grown-up affair in which men in suits wield a power that's based on control come what may. So obsessed with Hermione's imagined indiscretion is Leontes that he can't admit the truth, even when it's proven to him in court. Sixteen years later, an apposite joy permeates Webster's Fife-based version of Bohemia in the second half. Here Leontes and Hermione's abandoned daughter has grown up as farm girl Perdita, who is courted by Polixenes' slumming-it son Florizel among the common people on gala day.

There's fun to be had here from the tracksuit-clad community led by Jimmy Chisholm's Autolycus, and who cavort to a live folk-based score led by composer/musician Alasdair Macrae. It is the crumpled gravitas that looms large over John Michie's Leontes, however, that dominates. It's as if the consequences of his actions are too much to bear, and you know that the wounded child within is screaming still.

The Herald, February 16th 2017

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

The Divide

King's Theatre
Four stars

Everything is black and white in Alan Ayckbourn's new play, a six hour two part epic set in a dystopian future where men and women are segregated from each other following the aftermath of an unspecified plague. Into this landscape, the secret diaries of brother and sister Elihu and Soween are brought to life by Jake Davies and Erin Doherty with a wide-eyed lightness of touch as their hormones get the better of them when they both hit puberty.
Annabel Bolton's production for the Old Vic, EIF and Karl Sydow begins with a TED Talk type lecture that reveals the back story to how things turned out this way. It ends with a sentimental love story designed to tug the heart-strings. Inbetween, there is teenage rebellion aplenty against the regime's institutionalised repression. Liberation comes through art and sex, which, in such extreme circumstances become even greater life forces.

With both plays told through the siblings' diaries alongside ass…