THE WINTER'S TALE
BARD ON THE BEACH, Vanier Park, Until Sept 22 2017
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Liz Gloucester
For a set designer, it is almost inconceivable to have the imagination or the tools to design a backdrop as magnificent as a window onto Vanier Park, the ocean, the mountains and the sky of beautiful Vancouver. As the day waned and rolling dogs and honking geese all went to bed the encroaching darkness really lent itself to the development of the Bard's tale. Imposing classical columns invoke the ancient laws and rigidity of Sicilia where King Leontes and his subjects are adorned in regal blues and purples - lusciously designed by Carmen Alatorre. Visually, the court scene was particularly spectacular using geometric masks and soundscape to fill Hermione's trial with gawking faces and heckling subjects.
In Act Two the shift to the pastoral outskirts of Bohemia gives way to earthy and carnal colours; the inhabitants of which are clearly having a lot more fun! Pam Johnston, set designer, along with Heidi Wilkinson and Frances Henry who created the three puppets used in the piece are to be congratulated on their cubist vision which was verdant, sumptuous and injected the atmosphere with joy. A very well though out and synchronised creative team!
The performance was by contrast polarising. The characters in Sicilia were a little bound by their laws of propriety for my taste. It frustrated me to see Hermione so calm during the court scene. I understand that she has regality and is 'not prone to weeping' but I itched to feel the swell underneath the calm waters of Sereana Malani's performance; a bubbling fury or a dousing fear that just wasn't there. Similarly Kevin MacDonald was a little monotone; his command of the stage and physical gestures showed undeniable talent but his Leontes was all ego and stubbornness, I saw little of the undone man whose world is crumbling around him.
Act Two held a lot more promise. The characters we happen upon have humour supporting them, gaiety, dancing and most importantly two delightful sheep. David M. Adams' shepherd was very engaging and Ben Elliott's Autolycus stole the show with his high energy, wisecracking scenes- even leading fellow cast members to corpse on occasion - thank goodness he wasn't present during any death scenes!
I found the music to be a little underwhelming, this interestingly suited Autolycus' Daffodils song where Elliott's lackadaisical approach which was clearly played for laughs, but most of the other songs seemed to be unfitting of the instruments voicing them; either being pitched a little low or out of character with the atmosphere of the piece. The ambiguity across the board of performance was what irked me; while clearly sharing the same stage, several actors seemed to not quite exist on the same plain; Kaitlin Williams' Perdita could have been plucked from a very modern take on the play using throw-away gestures and expressions that were from a completely different era whereas Lois Anderson's Paulina was staunchly classical, the fire and brimstone of her performance reverberating around every audience members seat.
I judge harshly because Bard on the Beach is Vancouver's finest and it has earned that title fair and square. In spite of my criticisms 'The Winter's Tale' is a delight from start to finish and I would highly recommend this production to anyone who enjoys the dark, the light and all that lays in between.
By Marie Duncan
The Winter’s Tale is an enjoyable show with some inaccessible moments. Staged with elements that hearkened back to the ancient greek theatre of big gestures, and masks, The Winter’s Tale was visually gorgeous. The costumes, by Carmen Alatorre, were flowy and grand, made of blues, purples, and reds. The masks were beautifully made, and fun to watch, and the puppets, by Heidi Wilkinson and Frances Henry, were delightful and surprising. Generally, the actors performed using large gestures that felt less natural and
more stagey, adding to the sense of ancient greek theatre. In some cases, this made the text more difficult to connect to. This was especially true in the first act, which contains more lengthy monologues in verse.
A standout performance was given by Lois Anderson in the role of Paulina. Everything she did was thoroughly engaging and heartfelt.
The simple set of the first act was beautiful and evocative, especially when moved with the music during transitions. At first I wondered if these movements would mean anything or turn into something magical, but by the end of the first act, they seemed to just be indicating a change in location.
Towards the end of the first act, there is a surprising and delightful shift from tragedy to comedy. This sets us up perfectly for the second act, a hilarious romp into the countryside with songs and pranks and dancing.
All in all a delightful show, with some fun surprises and some long monologues.