Considered one of the most majestic buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is a well-known for its storied plays, wonderous musical acts, and theatre performances.
I recently had the opportunity to watch a John Bell production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” and I leapt at the chance. Not only because it was at the Opera House, but because it’s, well, a play written by >the< William Shakespeare. Yes, I’m a fan.
“The Winter’s Tale” is not as well known as Shakespeare’s other plays, such as “Hamlet” or “Othello,” but it’s a good one nonetheless. It begins with King Leontes of Sicily of mild temper suddenly overcome with mad dreams of his pregnant wife Hermione being unfaithful to him with his boyhood friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Leonetes then orders his loyal servant Camillo to poison his friend, but Camillo warns Polixenes and escapes with him to Bohemia. Hermione is then sentenced to life in prison, eventually giving birth to a daughter later known as Perdita. Feel free to Google a lengthier summary.
When an original play is roughly an hour and a half, and the retelling of such a tale is stretched closer to three, it’s either going to be fantastic or a flop.
The first half prior to intermission was brilliant: the cast was phenomenal and the roles believable, while the set was simple and charming. I had forgotten how strong the women in this play were until I watched it again, from Hermione to Paulina to young Perdita. Shakespeare is a feminist after my own heart, especially considering the day and age of when this was written. Each role either followed faithfully to the lines written by Shakespeare or given a different perspective: Myles Pollard’s role as Leontes, for example, seemed more crazy than I recalled but still passionately believable.
Unfortunately, I found the second half of “The Winter’s Tale” to be disjointed and at times unnecessary. There were musical bits for instance, and though I love musicals, were a tad much: the music itself was too loud and overpowered the actors, and for the most part seemed to come out of no where, or maybe I’m remembering the play wrong. Either way, hilarious as the first few songs were, it became redundant for me and too long. Almost like revisiting the ending of the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings movie. Almost. The parts that followed the original play were still brilliant, and the smaller additions of using lighting and shadows to show a change between acts were a nice touch.
Overall, the Bell Shakespeare production was good. It was part moving, part funny, and all parts Shakespeare. Needless to say, it was an experience I shall never forget and something I can stratch off my bucket list.