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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Theatre review: The Winter’s Tale is endearing and entertaining

Shakespeare’s unbalanced script is redeemed with a clarity of vision

Juggling multiple perspectives like the facets of a cut stone, the Bard on the Beach production of The Winter’s Tale is a traditional retelling with a unified vision.

Set design, costuming, puppets, and masks all cut across the stage with a polygonal beauty highlighting the theme of perspective, while the performers expertly navigate one of Shakespeare’s most unmotivated texts.

One of Shakespeare’s most unbalanced plays, The Winter’s Tale offers a beautifully performed tragedy in the first half, and comedy in the second.

Leontes (Kevin MacDonald) is struck by a sudden, and wholly unmotivated, surety that his beloved wife Hermione (Sereana Malani) has been unfaithful to him with his good friend Polixenes (Ian Butcher). His resulting rage forces the exile of both Polixenes and Camillo (Laara Sadiq), and the death of both his only son and wife while his newborn daughter is abandoned far from the palace. Sixteen years later, that lost daughter Perdita (Kaitlyn Williams) falls for the true-born son of Polixenes, Florizel (Austin Eckert). The families are reunited and Leontes is redeemed.

Every performance is capable, but standouts include Sereana Malani whose stately grace as Queen Hermione holds the stage with her stillness. Ben Elliott’s Autolycus likewise steals every scene he enters with a foolish intensity and comic physicality breathing a much needed Jim Carey style energy into the play.  And Lois Anderson’s Paulina has the dignified strength to propel the meandering plot forward with emotion and meaning.

The set design by Pam Johnson and costume design by Carmen Alatorre feed into one another with a clarity of vision, ensuring every aspect of the production is visually striking and reaffirming its theme. The puppets by Heidi Wilkinson and Frances Henry are mostly a joy to watch, though the bear lacks the expressive movement of the sheep.

The Winter’s Tale is an uneven play expertly staged by a talented cast and crew with each aspect reinforcing the rest. From sets, to costumes, to performances, Bard on the Beach has created an endearing and entertaining The Winter’s Tale. Perfect on a summer’s eve.

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare. Directed by Dean Paul Gibson. A Bard on the Beach Shakespeare production. On stage at the BMO Mainstage tent in Vancouver’s Vanier Park until September 22. Visit for tickets and information.

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