The Winter’s Tale
Director: Kenneth Branagh, Rob Ashford
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Miranda Raison, John Shrapnel, Hadley Fraser, Tom Bateman, Jessie Buckley, Michael Pennington
Seen on: 26.11.2015
Leontes (Kenneth Branagh), King of Sicily, is visited by his old friend Polixenes (Hadley Fraser), King of Bohemia. When Polixenes wants to leave, Leontes asks his pregnant wife Hermione (Miranda Raison) to convince him to stay. When she succeeds, Leontes believes it’s because she and Polixenes have an affair. Convinced that the child isn’t his, Leontes tries to poison Polixenes and imprisons Hermione, setting events in motion that will have consequences for years to come.
The Winter’s Tale is a mixed bag of beans. While I enjoyed much about it and it really was a high quality production, there were so many unnecessary things that kept adding length when I was hoping for speed that the overall effect was rather meh.
The production has two main strenghts. One is, unsurprisingly, the cast. Judi Dench is always awesome and Branagh joyfully overacts Leontes as the character in this story deserves – it is wonderful to watch. But also the less well known cast members are great and together they form a really great ensemble.
But what impressed me even more, I have to admit, is the lighting of the show. Not only is the stage design rather minimalistic and a lot is done purely with the lighting, the use of light is simply beautiful and made most of the play for me.
But not everything about the play worked for me. There is more than one scene that features (not particularly good) dancing with rather unimpressive music which adds very little to the atmosphere, nothing to the story and just makes the entire thing drag on and on and on. Admittedly my feeling of length is probably also to do with the fact that the play started a full hour after it was announced it would start (I assume that there was some organisational hiccup with the time difference between London and Vienna).
And the play is simply not that great (for a Shakespeare play at least). It was entertaining enough, but it just failed to blow me away, despite the good parts – and that holds true für the entire production.