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Sunday, 1 August 2021

REVIEW: William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for the SHAKE Festival

The Winter’s Tale is one of William Shakespeare’s later plays written in 1610 and so now his words are over 410 years old, yet they still create a mystical magical world in which love and faith are tested. Kenneth Branagh’s excellent stage version in which he played Leontes opposite Dame Judi Dench’s Paulina and Jessie Buckley’s Perdita was captured and realised in cinemas in 2019. In October 2020 Rob Myles’s version was streamed online as one of the “Show Must Go On” productions of the complete works of Shakespeare. When the SHAKE Festival announced a rehearsed reading of the play it was planned to be done from a theatre but was switched to a zoom stream via youtube. The result is a well-executed & well-spoken reading from the homes of the cast without gimmicks (aside from some silly woollen beards) but it fails to capture the magical world without staging. The technique works well if you are studying the text as you can follow it easily in the script as they present the show and focuses the viewer on the words but can’t replicate a live theatrical or cinematic capture.

Director Jenny Hall introduced the piece and acted as scene setter with the help of some simple period music by Finn Collinson on flute and Oliver Wass on harp but decided to request performers worked in front of largely plain white walls and without props. The audio is very clear and easy to follow, the video is generally good although Mark Quartley’s Leontes image was a little fuzzy and Oliver Cotton as the Shepherd was using a digital background which caused distracting artefacts.
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