Review: The Winter’s Tale @ the Royal Opera House
May 3, 2016
‘Exit pursued by a bear.’
Possibly, the most infamous piece of stage direction ever to have graced the canon of theatrical accomplishment . Needless to say that the Royal Opera House’s latest offering, The Winter’s Tale, tackles this unusual direction with innovation and no dancer to speak of (spoiler – or non-spoiler, depending on how you look at it.) Shakespeare, aside from the obvious Romeo and Juliet, is rarely flung into the murky world of balletic adaptation. However, under the masterful direction of choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, The Winter’s Tale demonstrates precisely why Shakespeare should be probed, prodded and pushed into the medium of dance.
It was back in 2011 that the world sat up and started to pay attention to Mr Wheeldon, whose vision, and hand selected artistic team, brought us the abstract and absurd Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. With the help of the same creative and, in some cases, dance team Wheeldon brought, arguably, the wackiest of Shakespeare to life for its second season (it was first premiered in 2014).
The story sees the young King Leontes, of Sicily, become consumed with jealousy when he believes that his wife, Hermione, has had an affair with his dear friend Polixenes. His misplaced fear results in death and the driving away of his only child. Eventually, in typical Shakespearian style, with a dramatic twist, a few inevitable misunderstandings and mistaken identities, all seems to come right in the end. One can see why many refer to it as the ‘problem play.’
Leontes and Polixenes, undertaken by Edward Watson and Frederico Bonelli respectively, work beautifully together in their initial scenes of playful boyish rivalry. What is even more impressive is Watson’s physical contortions when he believes his friend is having an affair with Hermione. Special mention must also be made of Steven McRae, who was the crazed Mad Hatter in Alice. He somehow manages to retains the exuberance and vitality of Florezial, while Sarah Lamb captures the innocence of Perdita.
The second half opened with a fantastical set of a rural Bohemia, designed by Bob Crowley, and contrasted with the cold, morgue like set design of Sicily. However, this bucolic sequence could have been cut down to almost half the length. The use of live musicians was effective and would have stood out more if the dance sequence was shortened.
If this exciting production is anything to go by we can expect far more to come from this new creative movement, headed up by Wheeldon.
The Winter’s Tale runs at the Royal Opera House until 10th June.