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A Winter’s Tale

by on 31 August 2018

Winter is Here!

A Winter’s Tale

by Howard Goodall, based on the play by William Shakespeare

Youth Music Theatre UK at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until 2nd September

Review by Viola Selby

When watching previous adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, I often notice how the director has focused fully either on the lighter and more romantic side or the darker more tyrannical side of the story. However, in this fantastic production, Bronagh Lagan, the director, and Nick Stimson, the playwright, have effortlessly managed to create a dramatic contrast between the two genres; emphasising the feeling of conflict throughout. This, in turn, has made a four hundred year old play extremely relatable and entertaining to today’s audience.

In addition, this same tremendous level of talent is also brought in by the whole cast, through their brilliantly timed responses, use of body language and sensational singing abilities. Will Hopkins and Will Mckee are flawless in their depiction of two tyrannical rulers, Leon and Ozan, who were once best friends, but soon become arch-enemies. They create characters of such substance and realism far beyond their years, which have the audience gripping the edge of their seats.


Their interactions and character growth made even better by the brilliantly emotional acting of Izzy Mackie, as Leon’s wrongfully accused wife, Ekatarina. Whilst Rory MacNeilage ensures that there could be no one more perfect to play the sly and evil Naryshkin, right-hand-man to Leon and perpetrator of Ekatarina’s demise. MacNeilage brings such an effortless aura of class and evilness to the play that he strongly reminds me of a young Dr No.

However, although based around a play, Howard Goodall has managed to create a musical masterpiece, with songs and music that truly depict the inner monologue and feeling within each character and help create the atmosphere of each scene. From the dark and emotional songs such as Treachery of Love and Tyranny of a Lie, played in the first half, to the more uplifting and often quite comical songs such as Found on a Beach and the Sheep Song sung by the “Hey Judes” in the second part, there was not a single song that did not have your heart racing or you wanting to sing along. It was especially during Treachery of Love, beautifully sung by Will Hopkins, and Precious Child, that I also noticed the clever choreography, directed by Phyllida Crowley-Smith. During the former, Leon is convinced that his wife, Ekatarina and his best friend, Ozan, are having an affair. Therefore everything he sees them do, he sees as some sort of sign of their feelings for one another. Crowley-Smith has creatively highlighted this distortion between reality and what Leon ‘sees’, by having a duplicate of Ekatarina and Ozan on stage. This duplicate couple copy everything the real characters do, however in a more lustful and suspicious manner. Whilst during Precious Child, fantastically performed by the whole cast, Ekatarina reveals to Leon during the celebrations that she is pregnant with his child. Leon is still consumed by his jealousy and orders her arrest, stating that the baby is Ozan’s. It is here that all the female characters get behind Ekatarina and the men behind Leon, again showing another great conflict between power and love, as depicted through the genders.


In addition to the paranoia and power of this story, this play is also filled with magic that allows its audience to feel part of the events as they unfold. In this particular production, the audience are transported by the use of the creative genius of Libby Todd, as set and costume designer, and Alan Valentine, as lighting designer. Individually, their talents are excellently exhibited. From the fantastic costumes, that truly depict first the control and tyranny of the first act and then the hippie flower power of the second, to the use of an effective minimalistic set that somehow creates the illusion of this whole world on one stage. Whilst, when put all together, a variety of atmospheres are created, both making each scene more realistic and highlighting the play’s overall conflict between power and love. Even at the end, when the statue of Ekatarina is revealed and the family are once again brought together, the audience are left in awe by the use of lighting that fixes their focus on this one heart-warming scene. This simple technique is extremely effective and really depicts the conclusion of this tale and overall artistic talent this play has to offer.


A West End worthy Winter’s Tale that will warm your heart!

Viola Selby
August 2018

Photography by YMT

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