In a clinical kingdom on dark grey and blues, King Leontes reveals his suspicions of his Queen’s fidelity with his brother; which in true Shakespearean fashion means one misunderstanding has a catastrophic effect on their loved ones in the world that surrounds him.
Chaos and death quickly spreads, with his young daughter sent to Bohemia for safety, unbeknownst to the King. Naturally enough, through coincidence and perseverance, the tale goes full circle in clarifying the misunderstandings of the family. Cheek by Jowl throw new perspectives and angles to a centuries old story, with an injection of life of frivolity.
With a curious timber structure, a bench and a faceless person, the stripped back walls of Silk Street Theatre lay for a blank canvas of The Winter’s Tale; one which acts as a canvas for the audience to see what they want to see in Leontes’ kingdom. Curiosity filled the room with the audience’s whispers and murmurs of what the set would become and transform into. With an initial encouragement of imagination from this unknown set, the audience seem more open to what unfolds, quite literally through the story and set.
The costume design is subtle and emotionally linked to reflect the characters’ dispositions, their prominence, and grouping. Nick Ormerod utilised harsher colours and costume for the rigidity of the Kingdom, and Bohemia’s lighter tones created an air of freedom immediately.
The lighting design tied all elements together; creating the doom and confinement of the castle, similar with Bohemia. The incorporation of live multimedia to stream the court case is an added dimension that gives a deeper insight into the actors and how they needed to be performed.
The interchangeable ensemble is adaptable and malleable to the world that surrounds them. Whether it was the drab and clinical kingdom or free and easy Bohemia, the dual use of actors displayed their acting abilities, true dedication, and investment in the production.
Hermione and Dorcas (Natalie Radmall-Quirke) are equally captivating and convincing, yet did not compromise the credibility of Hermione’s prominence. The ensemble is engaging and full of concentrated high energy, particularly in Bohemia, which created a different energy throughout the theatre; one of joviality and investment in the princess.
The adaptation of The Winter’s Tale is somewhat reminiscent of Propeller Shakespeare, which creates a world of nonsensical sense, yet keeps true to the moral tale. Donellan’s direction is fresh and alternative, breathing new life into a story that may tend to lay forgotten in the Shakespeare realm at times.
An Irish Bohemia is a new perspective on a different life, away from hostility, perhaps a reflection on Donellan’s Irish heritage and an upbringing in England. Cheek by Jowl makes you realise just how these common misunderstandings, and coincidentally life instances, are just as relatable now as they were back then in Shakespeare’s time. An injection of madness is all The Winter’s Tale needed to seem new again.
The Winter’s Tale runs at Silk Street Theatre until 22 April.