Sunday, 20 September 2015

Exit, pursued by a bear

And so to the theatre. Northern Broadsides have gone for a two Shakespeare in a row strategy, which probably makes sense commercially. No sooner has Bazza given us his Lear than Conrad Nelson (is there a diminutive of Conrad?) gives us his Leontes, narrowly getting the jump on Sir Kenneth Branagh who is just about to do it, alongside Dame Judi Dench no less, in the West End. Now I am loathe to criticise the very talented Nelson, who also directs and writes the music in this production. His Iago to Lenny Henry's Othello was excellent and I fondly remember his Henry V. However, I found him - and only him among the cast - difficult to hear. It is understandably tempting to play Leontes with his head in his hands. He spends the first half of the play in torment because of what he falsely imagines is happening between his wife and his best friend and then he spends the second half of the play in torment because of the consequences of his behaviour in the first half. But, if I may be permitted to offer a word of advice to the Conman, metaphorically; his head should be in his hands metaphorically.

"Ay, but why?"

The production was otherwise noteworthy for the reintroduction of clog dancing. Since 'An August Bank Holiday Lark' - a play actually about clog dancing - the company have eschewed their traditional mid-show knees-up, but now it's back. To be specific the fourth act sees a hoe down followed by an Irish step dance, but given that the geography of "The Winter's Tale" is sufficiently all over the place to accommodate a Sicilian foundling in Bohemia, it can also allow the Munster diaspora to be there as well. As for the bear, it appears projected onto the backdrop.

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