The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare, in a new version by Helikon
OSO Arts Centre
OSO Arts Centre - 23 March 2019
A review by Matthew Grierson
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: there’s this king, Leontes, who tells himself his pregnant wife Hermione is cheating on him with his best mate Polixenes, the king of Bohemia, so he orders his friend to be killed and banishes his new-born daughter. The twist is there’s a happy ending.
Don’t believe me? I’m not sure I would – and Helikon Theatre clearly don’t as they’ve attempted a bold(ish) reimagining of Shakespeare’s romance to amplify its contemporary resonance. And truth be told, they largely succeed.
The conceit of the production is that the stories we tell ourselves today are often relayed through the media, so scenes not only play on stage in front of us but are also live-streamed on a selection of screens behind and around the cast, or are supplemented by recorded footage. So when the play jumps right in with Polixenes’ speech about the great time he’s been having in Sicily, as the Bohemian monarch stands with his back to the audience facing a camera that projects his face on an upstage screen we can all watch. All right, there is a bit of a lag with the lip-synching, but we get the message: Sicily is both a surveillance state and a celebrity culture. The use of captions such as ‘Day One’ not only helps place us in time – we’re up to Day 5,000+ by the end – but also suggests the Sicilian cabinet is akin to the Big Brother house.
As though nothing is real if it is not also broadcast, the tyrannous Leontes insists on sitting his wife before the camera to ‘confess’ her adultery, and even forces a microphone back into her face as she defends herself at trial … …
Read Matthew Grierson’s review at www.markaspen.com/2019/03/20/wint-tale-oso
Public Image The Winter’s Tale by William Shak