The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new London season arrives with the announcement of a five-year partnership with Camden’s Roundhouse. Artistic director Michael Boyd is enamoured of the venue, describing it as both intimate and epic, and the transfer of the Stratford production of The Winter’s Tale helps us to share his excitement.
David Farr’s direction makes the most of the specially constructed thrust stage, which mirrors the company’s current home in Stratford. The format has clearly focused Farr, and his direction is startlingly clear. Jon Bausor’s design takes inspiration from the ballads of Shakespeare’s day, cleverly enforcing the telling of this winter tale and decking Sicilia and Bohemia with so much paper we might feel we are enveloped in the Forest of Arden.
Greg Hicks’ mellifluous voice is always a delight, and he plays the jealous Leontes with a restraint that marks his maturity. Kelly Hunter is his victimised wife Hermione, tackling the role with a moving humility. Also of note in this industrious ensemble are the appealing young lovers who become the focus of the play’s redemptive power: Florizel and Perdita (Tunji Kasim and Samantha Young). It would be refreshing to encounter the role of the Young Shepherd without a Welsh accent, but at least Gruffudd Glyn’s moniker indicates he is entitled to the part, and he puts in a great comic turn.
Farr’s direction enforces the judicial themes within The Winter’s Tale, drawing the audience in to play the role of arbiter. The moving text’s complex moral exploration and emotional impact are developed wonderfully, and the staging makes escaping into the fantasy of The Winter’s Tale easy. It all bodes well for the RSC’s future at The Roundhouse.
The Winter’s Tale plays until 1 January 2011. The RSC’s London season is at The Roundhouse until 4 February 2011.
Photo by Alessandro Evengelista
Written 17 December 2010 for The London Magazine