Shakespeare’s Globe has opened its new production of The Winter’s Tale, with reviews now coming in from London’s theatre critics.
Directed by Globe Associate Artistic Director Sean Holmes, the production breaks new ground at the Bankside venue by inhabiting both of its theatres in the same production for the first time: its open-air Globe Theatre and the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
The show kicks off in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, during the scenes set in the aristocratic luxury of Sicilia; and then the action and audience moves out during the interval to the Globe Theatre, for the scenes set in pastoral Bohemia; and then finally back to the intimate, candlelit Playhouse.
The cast of The Winter’s Tale includes Toby Barnett-Jones as Mamillius, with Ed Gaughan as Autolycus, Colm Gormley as Antigonus / Old Shepherd, Nadine Higgin as Paulina, Beruce Khan as Camillo, John Lightbody as Polixenes, George Robinson as Mamillius, Bea Segura as Hermione, Sarah Slimani as Florizel, Sergo Vares as Leontes, and Jacoba Williams as Perdita.
The characters in ‘Bohemia’ are played by members of the Soldiers’ Arts Academy, a not-forprofit organisation offering serving and former military personnel opportunities to participate in the arts.
Alongside Sean Holmes as director, the creative team also includes Grace Smart – Designer; Laura Moody – Composer & Musical Director; Roberta Zuric – Assistant Director; Anna Watson – Candle Consultant; Verity Naughton – Children’s Casting Consultant; Glynn MacDonald – Globe Associate – Movement; Tess Dignan – Head of Voice; Tamsin Hurtado-Clarke – Movement Director; Katie Heath – Seasonal Voice Coach; and casting by Becky Paris, Head of Casting at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Read reviews from the Telegraph, Guardian, Stage, TimeOut and more.
The Winter's Tale reviews
"Sean Holmes’s magical ‘Winter’s Tale’ totally pulls off its daring use of both Globe theatres"
"For the first time, the Globe’s indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and outdoor Globe Theatre are used in conjunction to really give scope to Shakespeare’s vision. The effect is tectonic and exhilarating, breathing new life into the centuries-old text."
It is a staging that brings out the tension and tonal differences in Shakespeare’s words. But, Grace Smart is too artful a designer to focus only on the two locations’ differences; she sets each scene around long tables to softly bring out their parallels."
"Holmes’s production has a knack of making Shakespeare’s language feel afresh. Con artist Autoclycus is played so naturally by Ed Gaughan that he could have stepped right off the London streets. There’s an effort to involve us in dance and chorus too. Holmes grasps the implausibility in the play and embraces it."
"The Globe’s two-venue telling loses its way"
"As this ambitious production switches between stages, and deaths pile up like dishes, neither the comedy nor the tragedy have room to breathe"
"Glimpses of fine craft and grand ambition cannot hold together Sean Holmes’s sprawling production of The Winter’s Tale. Taking over both the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the Globe theatre, this chaotic tragi-comedy struggles to root us emotionally in Shakespeare’s story."
"There’s a rush of cold as we move to the chilly Globe, our Bohemia. The production breathes more easily here, under the fairy-lit sky. Curiously, Holmes ignores the majority of the Globe’s stage, which queries the need for the hefty transfer of the audience."
"This finale can’t entirely smooth over the haphazard proceedings, but it is a glimpse of what this show could have been, if dramatic moments were left to settle and tension encouraged to grow. Instead, rapid plot progression in the tragic scenes and ribald songs in the comic ones overwhelm any strong sense of emotional impact or character development from either."
"Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ play? Not in this stupendous staging"
"Deploying both the Globe's main stage and its Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, this new promenade staging is an imaginative, expertly judged triumph"
"As Sean Holmes’s ingenious, modern-dress take on it demonstrates, this 400-year-old play is a problem only if you believe that its diverging dramatic modes cannot co-exist in the same play and if you lack the clarity of imagination to stage it afresh."
"This promenade performance is the elegant key, along with the superb casting and judicious compression of the protracted exposition in the first three acts, to making this new version of an old play so cohesive despite its different dramatic emphases."
"There is so much more I’d love to say about this thoughtful and very entertaining play, but lack of space means it has to be summed up by: I’m sure Shakespeare would approve."
"Gimmicky and disjointed production straddles both Globe stages"
"This glib and gimmicky version, helmed by Shakespeare’s Globe associate artistic director Sean Holmes, struggles to settle on a tone and often sacrifices emotional depth for easy laughs."
"Grace Smart’s evocative if incoherent design gives each location its own distinct aesthetic."
"Holmes’ staging is undeniably inventive, even if many of his choices feel overwrought"
"Standing out in a sharply uneven cast, Nadine Higgin gives a brilliantly focused performance as formidable noblewoman Paulina. Possessed of fearsome dignity and a sharp edge of purposeful cruelty, she refuses to be cowed or condescended to, quickly taking control of a situation spinning fatally out of control."
"A quixotic take that gives us two shows in one"
"Sean Holmes serves up silliness and wonder in the first production to use both spaces at Shakespeare’s Globe"
"His quixotic take on The Winter’s Tale emphasises the disjointed nature of the play – part tragedy, part comedy – by splitting it across Shakespeare’s Globe’s two performance spaces... It’s the first time both spaces have been used in a single production, but it feels like more than a gimmick. It captures the sense of adventure, strangeness and spectacle found in Shakespeare’s late “romance” plays, which can’t be straightforwardly categorised in the way his earlier works can."
"Holmes makes free with Shakespeare’s words here, getting ready laughs with ad-libs and pop culture references, as well as dance numbers that get the audience cavorting in the chilly night air."
"A jolly caper that needs to find its heart"
"Bring an extra layer. And a woolly hat. And maybe a plot summary because I’d challenge a first-timer to follow every twist and turn, from the introverted psychodrama of the Sicily scenes to the Bohemian larks in the Globe proper."
"... yet it’s hard to feel much. Or it is until the excellent Nadine Higgin arrives as the outspoken Polina, owning the lines with an ease and an energy lacking elsewhere. It’s the first of a few performances that will add some welcome relief."
"... Holmes and his designer, Grace Smart, use the Playhouse’s dimness to help to stage a beautiful statue scene. Restrained and touching, it’s perhaps the one truly unforgettable part of an event whose sense of adventure outguns its sense of emotional engagement."
"Globe’s first tale over TWO venues"
"Double the fun"
"Sean Holmes’s production begins in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, at the court of King Leontes (Sergo Vares) in Sicilia, before transferring to the open-air Globe to visit Bohemia and returning inside for the final act. It is a brilliant conceit."
"Holmes’s warm-hearted production does justice to Shakespeare’s exploration of how love can bring destruction and redemption, while giving full rein to the comedy."