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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Exit, Pursued By A Bear

Bringing together a youthful cast of students and graduates from Toi Whakaari, Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art and our very own Victoria University, the 2011 Summer Shakespeare production achieves something quite remarkable—making Shakespeare interactive, dynamic, and refreshingly local while remaining true to the original text. Performed to an audience on picnic blankets at the Botanical Gardens’ Sound Shell, ironically, The Winter’s Tale makes for perfect summer fare.

The first half of the play is set in the Sicilian court where King Leontes (Jonathan Price), incensed by the attentions of his wife Hermione (Amy Usherwood) toward his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia (Tom Clarke) rapidly descends into a state of irreconcilable jealousy. Powerful performances from the leads and convincing ensemble work soon leaves the audience embroiled in a typically Shakespearean tale of tragedy and revenge.

By contrast, the second half of the play emphasises the bard’s more comic elements. Minimal but effective staging sets the scene of Polixenes’ Bohemia in the quintessential Kiwi woolshed, where clever audience interaction, Katy Perry reprises and Tui crate bottles provide for plenty of laughs, without detracting from the storyline. Theo Taylor, playing the rogue Autolycus, adds boundless energy and acrobatic flare in an almost Freddy Mercury-esque performance.

Beautifully brought together in an ethereal and moving final scene, The Winter’s Tale is an unlikely, but wonderful marriage between rural Kiwi humour and enthralling Shakespearean tragedy. From the finest costuming details to the haunting music provided by just one guitar and drum kit, every aspect of the performance is polished without being overwrought. This year’s Summer Shakespeare has succeeded in making one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” accessible and highly entertaining, and has proved that there is much more to The Winter’s Tale than Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction.


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  1. Peggy says:

    William Shakespeare – All the world’s a stage (from As You Like It 2/7)
    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

    Yes we all could identify ourlives as being a player in a play, and I thought I might use this analogy at your coming 21st, a play with many different parts, scenes and acts.
    I would have loved to have seen “Winter’s Tale” with you from a picnic blanket under a Wellington sky.
    Love Mum

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