Hayley Jayne Standing
master of play
It must be tempting, when an actor dons a pair of hose, a ruff and one of those hats with a great big feather, to slip into the stereotypical ‘Shakespearean’ style of acting. Fortunately the cast of the Globe’s new production of The Winter’s Tale avoid this temptation and give uniformly fine performances that are both very funny and emotionally intricate.
Though the traditional dress, music and stage direction of this ‘original practices’ production is, in some ways unchallenging, it allows for a focus on the complexity of the text and its characters in an engaging and rousing fashion. The Winter’s Tale has always been a winning blend of tragedy and comedy.
For me the heart of the play and the most captivating aspect of this production is the moral force personified by Paulina, Queen Hermione’s maid. In this role Penelope Beaumont achieves an incredible presence on stage as she scolds Leontes for his foolish behaviour, before growing increasingly desperate, the only character who feels true loss at the end of the play. Her performance was breathtaking; so sincere and genuine.
Beaumont was supported by an immensely competent cast; as Leontes, Paul Jesson evokes abhorrence with his wrath and imprudence, but his gratitude and unrelenting penitence by the end of the play is inspiring. Juliet Rylance makes for a very beautiful Perdita and her sense of confusion and joy when meeting her mother are portrayed with equal conviction.
Credit must also be given to the production’s comic characters; Sam Alexander as Perdita’s adoptive brother is both affectionate and endearingly dim, Colin Hurly as the loveable rogue Autolycus is fast paced and funny, and Liana Weafer as Mopsa is fantastically bawdy and lewd. David Sturzaker’s performance as Florizel, however, is frustratingly naive; he’s an obviously talented actor but he overplays the role.
This production will please both the curious tourists and the Shakespeare buffs. The cast capably convey the play’s strong sense of wavering morality and the audience are able to engage with its themes of personal responsibility. The end of the play may be light-hearted, but the audience is left with a strong sense of what-could-have-been. This is Shakespeare as it should be; a production to make you laugh and make you think.