May 05, 2012

The Winter's Tale (Propeller) @ The Belgrade, Coventry

Follow-up to The Winter's Tale (Propeller) @ Sheffield Lyceum from The Bardathon

A second visit last night to Propeller's The Winter's Tale, now in Coventry, both affirmed and complicated the thoughts in my original review of the Sheffield performance. Once more, the play combined some truly superlative performances with a joyous depiction of Bohemia. Thanks to a far more culturally literate companion, I now know that the main dance number was actually a move-for-move recreation of one of Beyonce's recent hits, and went down particularly well with the Coventry audience.

The performance that particularly stood out for me this time was Ben Allen's Perdita. Less obviously foregrounded than his Mamillius, Perdita still managed to root the entire second half in a sincere and moving performance. Allen's Perdita fidgeted constantly, playing with the folds of her dress and wringing her hands. The mix of nerves and openness, bashfulness and pleasure in hosting, made this the most complex Perdita I've yet seen, and the wrenching apart of the couple by Polixenes left her broken yet resolute.

Unfortunately the first half of the play felt a little off. Lines were rushed through, and the use of direct address felt more forced than usual. Robert Hands's sobbing as Leontes heard of Hermione's death, which moved me in Sheffield, now drowned out Paulina's dialogue and sounded artificial, an emotional reaction too removed from his earlier detachment to ring true (albeit his reactions and wonder in the play's final act were still heartrending). Perhaps familiarity had muted some of the production's effects for me, but Sicilia only appeared to come to life upon the return from Bohemia.

It's still one of the best Winter's Tales I've had the fortune to see, and a great showcase for Propeller's talents. Looking forward to Henry V tonight, which will get a full review.

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Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

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