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Bard on the Beach 

The Winter's Tale

by William Shakespeare

Director Michael Shamata Costumes Mara Gottler Stage and Scenery Kevin McAllister Lighting Itai Erdal Sound Designer Stephen Bulat

Dates 29 June - 22 September 2006 Venue Under the tents in Vanier Park Reviewer John Jane

Jennifer Lines as Queen Hermione

There is often discussion about the way Shakespeare’s plays should be presented, particularly to a casual audience. Purists believe that every word of the Bard’s text ought to be used and period clothing compulsory, yet Bard on the Beach has often gone for modern dress productions with some success.

Costume designer, Mara Gottler has given this production an outlandish touch. In the tragic first act, the women are dressed more or less traditionally, in contrast to the sharp-looking suits of King Leontes and his entourage. When the play transposes to a romantic fantasy in the second act, actors are apportioned wear-what-you-will garb.

Despite this inconsistency and Kevin McAllister’s sparse stage design, this version does not forsake the poignancy of Shakespeare's original. This is due in no small measure to some excellent performances.

Gerry MacKay is splendidly over-the-top as the raging Leontes, who becomes the creator of his own misery when he accuses his beautiful and pregnant wife Hermione (Jennifer Lines) of adultery with his long term ally Polixenes (Martin Sims). MacKay aptly demonstrates how quickly obsessive love can turn to hate.

Kerry Sandomirsky takes the top acting honours in her dual roles of Dorcas, the shepherdess and the more complex Paulina. The latter is a strong female part and Sandomirsky is dominant as the queen’s faithful advocate. I was less enamoured by David Marr, who hurries his lines almost beyond comprehension and barely manages to convey the perspicacious character of Camillo.

The younger players, Anna Cummer, as the abandoned princess, Perdita, Torrence Coombs, as the handsome young prince, Florizel, and Aslan Grey as King Leontes' son and heir are excellent in their supporting roles.

The shabby, disreputable Autolycus played by Andrew Wheeler, does manage to draw some polite chuckles from the audience, but the comic potential of his part seems not to be fully exploited. It is generally left to Christopher Weddell and Chad Hershler as the old shepherd and his son to offset the darker aspects of the play.

Itai Erdal’s lighting provides the appropriate atmosphere throughout as the winter of act one gives way to a future spring of act two. Kevin McAllister’s (interior) scenery design suits the first act rather more than Bohemian pastoral second act. And alas, some of his props seemed unable to stand the stiff Burrard breezes wafting across the Studio stage.

This is a clever and entertaining production, received with delight by a responsive audience -- It comes highly recommended.

© 2006 John Jane