Although I have studied and seen numerous performances on stage and screen of Shakespeare's plays, The Winter's Tale is not one I am familiar with. Seeing it at the Dorfman Theatre (which once was the Cottesloe Theatre at the National) was the perfect introduction. It requires no previous knowledge and at only one hour long never lets your attention – or that of the younger members of the audience – wander. Staged in the "round", characters appear and exit from four corners and be ready for the bear's roar.
Director Justin Audibert has created a shorter version of the play suitable for children aged eight to 12 which is a delight to be immersed in. Teenage Perdita (Gabby Wong) tells the story initially through the eyes of the older brother (a puppet) she never met as the play begins when she is still in the womb of mother Hermione (Tamarra Camacho). Her father's, King Leontes', (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) sparks a chain of events that change everyone's lives.
This is very much an ensemble performance with only eight actors – all of whom are excellent: Adrian Richards as Polixenes, Shazia Nicholls as Camilla, Johndeep More playing Antigonus and the Old Shepard, Kenton Thomas as the Officer and Florizel and Stephanie Levi-John as Paulina. It is especially refreshing to see such an ethnically diverse cast. And hats off to the backstage crew and musicians for their expertise and and talents.
This production in modern dress is perfect for a younger audience including as it does puppetry and magic – the sheep was particularly enjoyed by children in the audience especially those encouraged to stroke it. The themes of family jealousies and teenage rebellion are easy to identify with even if the action is between royalty and courtiers plus the shepherds.
With dancing and singing as well as finely-tuned stage movements, this exuberant production is a must see.
PWT rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
The last performance is 28 Feb – dates and booking information.
Production images by Ellie Kurttz.