Review: The Winter’s Tale *****

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Sheffield Lyceum

As witnessed by the furore around the recent film Anonymous (which called into question the authorship of the Bard’s work), mess with Shakespeare at your peril.

Clearly, nobody’s told Edward (son of Peter) Hall. Everything in his production of The Winter’s Tale for Propeller has been messed with. The staging, the script, everything – the stage direction is not ‘exit, pursued by a toy bear’.

And it is utterly beguiling, pumped full of invention and wit and the best demonstration to the students who populated the Lyceum auditorium that the Bard is not dead.

Propellor is famed for staging all-male versions of Shakespeare’s work and it is possible for one to wonder if there really is any need. Here the presence of men playing women brings, in the initial scenes, a layer of violence bubbling under the surface. With all that testosterone on stage the scenes in which Vince Leigh, as Paulina, stands tall against the footmen trying to drag her out of court are gien a truth that one wonders would be possible if a more feminine presence was in his high heels. Like most of the production, lots of it is counter-intuitive, all of it works.

Who knew The Winter’s Tale featured a gypsy rock star or a group of men performing a dance from a Beyonce song?

It is wild, anarchic and despite being considered one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ plays, with its swing from pyschological drama to broad comedy, there is no problem here. Just a joyously fresh, irreverent – and relevant – production.

To February 4.

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