Rhinegold Photo credit: (c) Ellie Kurtzz
Cast of The Winter's Tale in its run at at Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Sarah Lambie

Review: The Winter’s Tale at the National Theatre

11:47, 11th February 2019


by Freddie Machin

For ages 8+

6– 21 February 2019

Running time: 1 hour


The Winter’s Tale is an ideal play for young audiences. While all the adults around them are losing their heads, tying themselves in knots with jealousy and rage, the young people in the play hold their nerve, fall in love, and re-establish peace in two kingdoms.

Perdita, lost daughter of King Leontes, narrates the story in the National Theatre version, jumping backwards in time to illustrate the turbulent home life she was born into, and then forwards to resolve it at her wedding day sixteen years later.

There is a certain amount of sleight of hand required in adapting such epically verbose literature for primary schools, which this production does beautifully. It is full of choral song, contemporary dance moves, and a selection of new music composed specifically for the production.

The action moves quickly through short, vivid, and colourful scenes without compromising any of the emotional heft created by two paranoid fathers at the centre of the story. And staging in the round means the actors – and some of the more mischievous puppets – interact directly with the audience.

That is not to say that the language takes a back seat. Large sections of the original text have been left untouched, and frequently remind us how simple and understandable a lot of Shakespeare actually is. In the midst of his suspicion, Leontes looks across the room and sees his wife in his friend’s arms, describing him as ‘he that wears her like a medal, hanging about his neck.’

Bottoms inevitably start to wriggle about the 45-minute mark but it’s not long before we are back the hands of this talented cast, celebrating the future of the two brilliant young people at the heart of the story, and toasting their union.

Tickets are available from www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-winters-tale

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