Review: The Winter’s Tale

Cheek By Jowl
Until January 28th at Citizens Theatre
4 Stars (4 / 5)

Once again Cheek By Jowl bestows upon the world a riveting performance that breathes new life into the work of a playwright long dead. This time, it is The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare; a story of jealousy, regret and redemption with a hint of the supernatural. Similar to Pericles, the first half revolves around a king who abandons his daughter and the latter half follows the daughter over a decade later, eventually culminating in an emotional reunion.

Director Declan Donnellan contains the entire staging within designer Nick Ormerod’s metallic rectangular box with flaps that open out into the space, conceal secrets and reveal surprises. As is somewhat characteristic of the company’s style, the simple set supports a stellar performance by the cast.

Overall, the performance is delivered with extreme clarity of the language that is seamlessly embodied in the actors. However, the first half of this production is by far more engaging, most probably due to the fantastic work of Orlando James as Leontes and Natalie Radmall-Quirke as his wife Hermione. Perhaps it is merely brilliant acting, but the duo make it so easy to follow the drama that one forgets that they are even speaking in Elizabethan English. The merry, comical tone of the second half is a refreshing shift, but muddles the action a little, although Ryan Donaldson’s puns as Autolycus is a cheeky addition.

The Winter’s Tale goes beyond superb theatre and makes the language of Shakespeare accessible to even the most inexperienced of theatregoers.