Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1
Opened 15 June, 2005

Mark Rylance’s final season at the artistic helm of Shakespeare’s Globe, concentrating on the late romances, continues on its uncertain path.  The three-man Tempest was indulgent and opaque. Pericles drew mixed reviews and has also been hit by Corin Redgrave’s hospitalisation after a heart attack.  And now for something completely different? No. In fact, and now for something not very distinctive at all.

One of the Globe’s trademarks is doing shows according to “original practices” – well, when you have a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan playhouse, it would seem a bit churlish not to.  The problem is that if neither the play nor the production has a strong hook, you may end up with a hollow spectacle.  My friend called this one “touristy”. I don’t agree totally, but I see her point: it looks authentically “quaint”.

The Winter’s Tale is quite a dark play: one king is consumed with jealousy (groundlessly) over his wife’s imagined infidelities, another flies into a rage when his son proposes to a shepherdess.  There’s banishment, abandonment, death and plotting, far more than you might expect outside the great tragedies.  Director (or, as the Globe styles it, “Master of Play”) John Dove fails to bring out any emotional intensity.

As King Leontes, Paul Jesson is no more than his jealousy: he rumbles well, but there’s no sense of a person behind it.  As his wronged wife Hermione, Yolanda Vazquez is rather too emphatic with her “face acting”, and Juliet Rylance as daughter Perdita doesn’t yet know how to project vocally in an outdoor venue without sounding childishly sing-song.  Con-man Autolycus gets a few laughs, but there’s little spark or pizzazz.

The Winter’s Tale has Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Here, a furry arm comes out of a trapdoor, thrashes about for a moment or two, and that’s it.  A Globe show can be a beautiful way to spend a summer’s evening, especially for only a fiver as one of the “groundlings” in the standing area.  But this production won’t add any great power of its own to that experience.

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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