The Winter’s Tale adapted and directed by Ross McGregor at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of their Shakespeare Sessions is an accomplished and imaginative production that should be applauded not only for its clear storytelling but also for its clever reading of the play.
It is not easy to stage the vagaries of characters which populate The Winter’s Tales, one of more enigmatic Shakespeare’s plays which is both ludicrously fantastical and painfully realistic. It begins as an emotionally draining family drama at the centre of which is a husband’s jealousy destroying a happy marriage to become a side-splitting comedy with frolicking shepherds. McGregor cut Shakespeare’s text and introduced many visual storytelling elements through stage movement and the use of puppetry making his adaptation punchy, well-paced and striking. What is more, his choice of steampunk-themed costumes turns out to be a perfect addition to this production as it further enhances the element of fantasy already present in The Winter’s Tales.
The success of the adaptation is chiefly thanks to great acting above fringe theatre standards. Christopher Neels’ Leontes as the cruel husband and Elizabeth Appleby’s Hermione as the wronged wife both give truly affective performances in the first part of the production. Later however Robert Myles as Autolycus, and Nic McQuillan and David Robert Olley as shepherd brothers steal the show with their Pythonesque comedic routines.
Go and see this show immediately because it will thrill you, make you laugh out loud and move you. It is Shakespeare as it should be done: with an open mind and lots of heart.