We usually steer clear of Shakespeare, the last time I watched one of his plays was 25 years ago at school for English Literature and the only thing I can remember about it was that I hadn’t a clue what was going on throughout the whole play! It’s fair to say I didn’t enjoy it at all and I have never seen another Shakespeare play since. When we were offered the chance to see The Winter’s Tale we thought it would be a good opportunity to broaden our literary experiences, lots of people love Shakespeare so perhaps we should give it another try. Knowing that the language that Shakespeare uses can be a little tricky to follow we thought it best to do a little research beforehand to find out what the play was about. I am so glad we did because whilst we still found the language difficult to follow in places, knowing the outline of the story made it much easier to follow and know what was going on in the play.
The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s later works and is a tale of jealousy and mistrust, the first act is quite dark, showing King Leontes of Sicily (Conrad Nelson) turn on his pregnant wife Hermione (Hannah Barrie) with the unfounded suspicion that she has been unfaithful to him with his best friend King Polixenes of Bavaria (Jack Lord). Hermione apparently dies of shock following her trial and her newborn daughter is banished from the kingdom, presumed dead.
The second act is a complete contrast, set 16 years later in Bavaria where the infant Perdita has grown into a beautiful young woman. She has been cared for by a shepherd who found her as a baby and brought her up as his own.
The sets were simple but very effective and made clever use of video projection.
The acting throughout was fantastic, during the first act Conrad really stood out with his portrayal of the emotion and turmoil that King Leontes was going through. He convincingly showed the King’s jealousy, anger, grief and finally regret as he came to terms with the loss of his wife and children and then realised the error of his ways.
The second half was much livelier and the rest of the cast took their opportunity to shine. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the musicians on stage, their singing and musical abilities really enhanced the show.
The Dukes is easy to find, situated close to the centre of Lancaster with plenty of parking nearby. The car park we used had an evening rate of £1.40 and was very close to the theatre.
Directed by Conrad Nelson this production from Northern Broadsides brings a less well known Shakespeare play to Lancaster and makes it very accessible to ordinary people. We really enjoyed our Shakespeare experience and won’t be leaving it 25 years to the next one!