Last January, I saw Kenneth Branagh's production of 'A Winter's Tale', featuring Dame Judi Dench and Hadley Fraser, as well as Branagh himself. This week, I saw a very different production of the same play, by the 'Cheek by Jowl company'.
It was interesting - a very different production, with an understated set, and a lot of cuts. particularly in the second half of the play.
In this production, Leontes (Orlando James) is clearly, from the beginning, unhinged - as his jealousy of his wife, Hermione (Natalie Redmall-Quirke) and friend, Polixenes (Sam Woolf) spill over, he poses them like mannequins, in the image of his fevered imaginings, and swings between affection and violence in his treatment of his son, too.
In the later parts of the play, once Perdita (Eleanor McLoughlin) is grown up, the production seems to start to have a little more fun, and to approach the text more irreverently. The shearing celebration becomes a mini-festival, and when Mopsa and Dorcas fall out over which of them the Shepherd's son has promised gifts to, the scene was presented like a Jeremy Kyle show, with Autolycus (Ryan Donaldson) .
I found myself a little disappointed by the way that Paulina's (Joy Richardson) character was portrayed - rather than her being a courageous,and tragic figure, she came over as more as a scold, which was a shame. (I am pretty sure this was a directorial decision, not down to the actor - she doubled as Mopsa and was excellent in that role).
Over all, I enjoyed the production, but I think it was uneven, and that the first scenes of Leontes' obsessive delusions, and the comedy in the second half, were the strongest parts.
The production is currently touring (dates and locations on Cheek by Jowl's site)