In the last few years, The Old Globe has staged plays by William Shakespeare in repertory in their outdoor Festival Theatre with simple sets, minimal props, and many familiar actors as were typical during Shakespeare’s time. After seeing a majority of Shakespeare’s plays in the Festival Theatre, which over time has provided a cookie-cutter type feeling, I was excited to see The Winter’s Tale in The Old Globe Theatre starring Billy Campbell.
The play begins with Leontes, The King of Sicily (Billy Campbell), accusing his pregnant wife, Hermione, and childhood friend, Polixenes, The King of Bohemia, of having an affair. Leontes becomes so deranged that he imprisons his wife for infidelity and demands that his new baby girl be put to death, because he believes she is Polixenes’ child. Soon after, the Queen and their son die, and the King is left alone and without an heir. Meanwhile, Camillo, who has been tasked with the baby’s death, decides instead to abandon her on the coast of Bohemia, naming her Perdita and leaving her with gold in hopes she will be found and cared for, which is exactly what happens. Perdita is rescued and taken in by an old shepherd and his son.
Sixteen years go by, and Perdita falls in love with Florizel, Polixenes’s son, but Polixenes does not approve of the relationship because she is not of noble blood. Florizel and Perdita go to Sicily, where they are greeted by Leontes, who has realized his mistake in condemning his wife and child and must produce an heir for his kingdom. Polixenes arrives in Sicily as well, and Leontes is eager to make amends with his long-time friend, and soon it is discovered Perdita is Leontes’s daughter. All is forgiven as relationships are repaired, and, in a surprise twist, renewed.
The modern style set with the use of dark to bright colors and dramatic lighting effects really set the mood as the play shifts from tragedy to romantic comedy and then to resolution. The mix of costume styles highlights the play’s capacity to transcend time and made it easy to identify the characters. The creative detail of the pianos (grand, toy, and upright) used right on stage tied in well with each scene.
This play has all the Shakespearean conventions, and the fresh approach appeals to both long-time Bard fans and novices alike. The Old Globe did an excellent job and made The Winter’s Tale well worth seeing.