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Amusing and Honest Review of The Winter’s Tale

When you think of Shakespeare, the stereotyped reaction is a yawn, a sigh or an ‘I don’t care’. I cannot deny it, our most recent trip to Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre to see ‘The Winter’s Tale’ earned quite the reaction.

Our trip started with enthusiasm and eagerness as we all piled on to the train in preparation for the show. A trip with the drama department is never a dull one, as it is like an outing with family rather than a division between teacher and student.
After a frantic run through Liverpool central, we rushed through the lolling crowds and finally stumbled into the Playhouse theatre.

Seated, ready and waiting we were hopeful for what we were about to witness. I had high expectations of the multi-award winning company, Northern Broadsides’ rendition of The Winter’s Tale. The tragi-comedy play consists of a fierce feud between Bohemia and Sicilia; two kings and one wife. Many obstacles become unavoidable on the journey to happiness, with much guilt and regret along the way. Director Conrad Nelson’s modern interpretation of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ began with a cheery celebration of New Year’s Eve, transforming into 1999. I was bemused by the strange adaptation of Shakespeare into the late 90’s. Considering our trip was for our exam, in which we have to compare the original performance of Shakespeare to the modern day, I was quite surprised by the random use of New Year.

The play carried on (and on, and on). Act one was too verbal to process, lacking visual effects and literally making me drift into a five minute sleep. The expression and voice of the actors was too much to bare, emphasising how actors in the original Shakespeare era shouted up to ‘the heavens’ in the Globe theatre. To be honest, the most thrilling part was the interval when I paid a disgraceful £2.50 for a tub of ice-cream smaller than my hand.

Act two was more reasonable. Outbursts of musical merriment and luminous lighting picked up the pace of the play to convey Bohemia, allowing the audience to stay engaged. In comparison to Act One which was tragedy themed and pessimistic, Bohemia represented a joyous atmosphere. Conrad Nelson gained a preferred style of theatre from the audience and portrayed the happy ending in which Shakespeare’s scripts usually lacked.

Overall, ‘The Winter’s Tale’ by Northern Broadsides was definitely disappointing. However, the group managed to hold on to positivity, as we always seem to bring out the laughter in everything we do. I hope that our second trip to observe the faultless Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh in their live theatre performance, streamed into Odeon cinema, will evidently be more engaging. I never expect anything other than a fight to understand live Shakespeare, perhaps one day I might win.

Student Media Team Journalist, Lauren Evans