The Winter's Tale - RSC, Stratford

By Ian Hughes Friday 01 February 2013 Updated: 01/02 09:20

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Buy photos » The Winter's Tale - Jo Stone-Fewings (Leontes) and Tara Fitzgerald (Hermione). (s)

The Winter's Tale

RST

Stratford

THINGS get turned on their heads in Lucy Bailey's take on Shakespeare's tragicomedy.

Bailey's production puts class central stage, with the court of Sicilia home to the rich, and the rough shores of Bohemia the domain of the poor.

The play is set in the 1860s, with Sicilia conceived along the lines of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, inhabited by beautiful people living beautiful lives in a pastoral Eden in their ivory tower by the sea.

At the bottom of that ivory tower - quite literally here - is Bohemia, set in the hard industrial north of Britain, where the poor work hard, but when they party, they party hard.

The idyll of Sicilia is soon shattered as Leontes becomes consumed by jealousy, convinced his wife is carrying the child of his best friend.

Jo Stone-Fewings puts heart and soul into his green-eyed monster possessed Leontes, and come the end he certainly looks like he's been through the proverbial mill, while Tara Fitzgerald also impresses with a perfectly balanced and considered performance as his wife Hermione, even forgiving him a punch to the stomach while pregnant.

The clowning around at the fair in Bohemia - think Blackpool - allows Pearce Quigley's Autolycus and Nick Holder's Young Shepherd plenty of comedy scope, and there's even some well-received Morris dancing with music provided by Bellowhead's Jon Borden.

Video is a favorite of Bailey's, and here designer husband Bill Dudley has created a massive stage-filling video seascape backdrop which changes with the mood, from calm sunlit blue to choppy dark waters, to the storm-swept shores of Bohemia, and the psychedelic-hued waters of the closing statue scene.

And that most famous of stage directions, exit pursued by a bear, in turn brings a massive bear rising up from the waves of the video screen.

Bailey has obviously thought long and hard about the play, and her take is certainly worthy, on paper at least, as on stage too much of this overlong production comes across as just all too matter-of-fact, and fails to fully engage, which is a shame for the heart is certainly there.

The Winter's Tale runs at the RST until February 23, and then tours. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for details.

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