A reviews round-up for The Winter’s Tale at the Garrick Theatre.
The highly anticipated Kenneth Branagh Season of Plays kicked off with The Winter’s Tale and All On Her Own / Harlequinade on Saturday 7 November 2015. With tickets selling like hot cakes for The Winter’s Tale there was much anticipation. Did the brilliant Kenneth Branagh still have what it takes? He hadn’t been on a West End stage since Chekhov’s Ivanov in 2008. For those not interested in Branagh, Judi Dench was the draw card for who knows when she might stop treading the boards.
Branagh’s King Leontes drew mixed reviews with Ann Treneman of The Times calling his descent into madness OVER THE TOP yet Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph found his performance exhilaratingly correct – the clarity, intelligence, tight-lipped control with a richer, deeper capacity for vice and darkness.
Dench doesn’t disappoint, effortless to watch, holding stage whenever she is on it, she is the star of this production.
REVIEWS ROUND-UP“In a production unafraid to hint at the darker elements of Shakespeare’s fable, Branagh and Dench are surrounded by a first-rate team” “Miranda Raison lends the wronged and persecuted Hermione a shining self-belief, Michael Pennington brings a lifetime's Shakespearean experience to the role of the bear-pursued Antigonus and John Dagleish is a suitably nimble-fingered Autolycus." Michael Billington
“a well-spoken, elegant account of one of Shakespeare’s tragicomic late romances. This is a play that’s deeply concerned with humiliation and healing." Henry Hitchings
“The Branagh Theatre Company gets off to a splendid start with a starry but sincere Winter's Tale” “splendid, starry and sincere” Mark Shenton
“The Winter’s Tale opens as if it was Dickens. There is a Christmas tree, everyone is wearing heavy Victoriana. It feels borderline Nutcracker, with bows, gussets, endless velvet.” “You would think that, of all people, Branagh would not mess up Shakespeare. You would be wrong. Branagh’s performance is mystifyingly OTT. The star of the show, without question, is Dench, who is effortless to watch. She alone appears to be natural, nuanced, sane, holding the stage whenever she’s on it, which isn’t enough.” Ann Treneman
“Judi Dench is the saving grace of Kenneth Branagh's overwrought production” Andrzej Lukowski
"Branagh brilliantly shades Leontes’ descent into madness. Within the blink of a deranged eye, Branagh is reeling this way and that, drunk with self-made poison, his speech faltering as the mania grips him and has him crumpled on his knees, writhing on the floor. " "All the old virtues of Branagh are present and exhilaratingly correct – the clarity, intelligence, tight-lipped control too – but what we’re getting now in his middle-age (he’s 54) and we beheld in his recent Manchester Macbeth is a richer, deeper capacity for vice and darkness: the ordinary man thrust into monstrous, terrifying motion."