Mercury Theatre : The Winter’s Tale.

Another excellent production from Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, following their ‘The Rivals’ (review) earlier this year, and last year’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (review).

Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ was a new one to me, and it’s a mix of tragedy and comedy – a not entirely perfect mix. The first half of the play is emotionally draining as King Leontes convinces himself that his wife, The Queen, has been unfaithful to him with him best friend since childhood, the neighbouring King, and we see the dread consequences.

It builds up to an intense scene at the end of the first half of the play. Shuna Snow as Paulina denounces the stupid King, an announces the death of the Queen in an emotionally wrought performance of exceptional impact, doubtless leaving her throat raw and bringing a tear to the audience’s eyes. Tim Treslove as Leontes has prior to this brought out the King’s vanity and frailty with a great piece of subtle acting – at one point making little movements with his hands, and taking hesitant half-steps forward. He also does tyranny, and finally self-loathing when he is aghast at the realisation of what his folly has led to. Nadia Morgan as Queen Hermione doesn’t have much to work with in the the early part of the play, but this adds impact to the scene with her standing at the top of the stairs in front of the court, declaiming her innocence in a very vulnerable and fragile, yet strong performance.

Tim Treslove (centre) as Leontes

Just before the curtain falls at the end of the first half, there is a tragi-comedy mix, which sets the audience up for the second half of the play, which is some sixteen years later and includes a bucolically pastoral romp. The Morris Dancers have to been seen to be believed, but don’t take your maiden aunt along!

David Tarkenter as Autolycus steals the second half of the show, in a comic role that any actor would give his eye-teeth for. The story feels though that there is an act missing, as a set up of hidden identities, secrets, gullible characters and a potentially villianous knave isn’t followed through, and with the aid of a Chorus, events which you would have liked to have seen on stage are only related verbally. Mind you, the ending is a doozy!

The production is quite a spare one for the most part, with a few chairs and a set of stairs at the back of the stage, and a pale winter’s moon staring balefully out at the audience. The exception is the harvest festival in the second half, which has a maypole, stalls and entertainment, with the Community Theatre Company packing the stage.

The Festival

There’s emotion at both ends of the spectrum, laughs, rude morris dancers, a bear, and a couple of standout acting performances. It’s on until the 8th October, so get along to see it! And keep an eye out for their Captain Corelli’s Mandolin which is coming soon, -not- starring Nicolas Cage. We’ve got 2 tickets for this being drawn out of the hat in October – sign up to our newsletter to get in the draw!