Polixenes (Denardo Hepburn), Leontes (Joel Szaefer) & Hermione (Kaitlyn Rietdyk) in a scene from Western Summer Shakespeare’s production of The Winter’s Tale. The production photo was taken at the University College courtyard, stage for the outdoors events in recent years.
Kaitlyn Rietdyk as Hermion & young Sam Tattersall (he’s seven, is that right?) as Mamilius in The Winter’s Tale. Both photos credited to Amanda VanDeven.
JBNBlog’s addition to the canon of Shakespeare criticism is the blithe assertion the Bard was only warming up for The Winter’s Tale when he penned King Lear.
This view has been resisted by many & its latest airing, as JBNBlog strolled away Wednesday with friends from Western Summer Shakespeare’s delightful production of The Winter’s Tale, was greeted with calm murmurs & not cheers of approval.
The production, directed by Jo Devereux, is strongest on the magical & storytelling aspects of my favourite work by Warwickshire Hank Williams. Many of the marvels of Act V are summarized by three lively maids (in a recasting from the men in the original) & the scene plays around vervefully with the fantastical elements being related. I had read about this interpretation but never experienced it properly until Wednesday at the University College courtyard.
Among many other memorable moments: the EDM flavour to the choreography of Ashley Patenaude-Wood; the spirited reproof from Perdita (Anna Lee-Deimert) about the sun shining on her family’s cottage just as it does on the palace; Shawn McCarthy’s strength as the Clown in scooping other characters up & almost tossing them about good-naturedly; the willingness of the long-suffering Paulina (Amanda Wilson) to make hastily away with Camillo (Shree Ziradkar) after King Leontes (Joel Szafer) suggests Camillo (who turns out to be a Polonius with considerably more fire) be her second husband; the remarkable poise of Hermione (Kaitlyn Rietdyk) in the final scene (spoiler alert . . . the whole statue thing is really well done) & much more.
My advice from the back row is for the cast to project with uniform strength . . . it’s lovely being outdoors with the Bard’s words. Hearing them is a problem in the courtyard unless everyone has the approach of a Joel Szafer or Amanda Wilson or Alan Legg (as the Old Shepherd).
So why is it the Bard’s best . . . well, nowhere else will you see a good character get (spoiler alert) chewed up by a bear (or at least have to imagine it) & still have a magically happy ending. With the excellence of this summer’s Cymbeline (also one of Shakespeare’s late-period Romances) at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival & The Winter’s Tale here through Saturday, July 7, there is an abundance of this rare beauty & truth.
PS Friends in the audience on Wednesday talked about the heat & many in the audience had the programs fanning away . . . no worries in JBNBlog’s seat because it always cool to “(touch) upon/The deserts of Bohemia.”