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The Winter’s Tale has been described as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” as a consequence of the fact that first three acts are concerned with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and provide a happy ending. It is this contrast that seems to be at the core of this production. This production was able to capture the essence of Shakespeare’s as it conveyed the whole spectrum of human emotion and interaction.
It is interesting to note that Conrad Nelson as Leontes gives a particularly compelling performance as he portrays both the psychological collapse of the character and his redemption and restoration. This scenes which remain in the memory after leaving the theatre are the scenes where Leontes expresses his profound anger at perceived betrayal of his trust. However, Michael Hugo as Autolycus gave a performance which was very well received by the audience and allowed the evolution of the play from darkness to contentment to seem seamless. Further to this, the actor-musicians of the play gave the production a particularly festive atmosphere, an atmosphere which the audience greatly appreciated.
There are scenes one expects to see after reading a Winter’s Tales scenes, scenes which one is aware of regardless of whether one has read the play. The statue of Hermione being filled with life once again is famous regardless of whether one has closely read the play. This scene was particularly beautifully executed as the pivotal moment was portrayed exquisitely by all of the cast and it is an aspect of this production which stays with you long after you have seen the play performed.
If one can describe the Winter’s tale as a “problem play” as a consequence of its unusual shift from the bleak and austere to the whimsical and far-fetched then it is a problem which is dealt with in this production as though it were no problem at all.