RSC to produce “miracle” play The Winter’s Tale

Published: 31 January 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale “is not a problem play but a miracle of a play which turns and twists at lightning speed and with acute understanding of the human heart,” according to Erica Whyman who will direct it for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She said, “I’m particularly excited to be directing The Winter's Tale as it’s one of my favourite plays and I directed it, very happily, once before at Southwark Playhouse in 1999.

“I think it has walked with me ever since and become in so many ways more sharply reflective of our world than perhaps it was then. It’s a play in which a man with immense power, who abuses it in the grip of a totally consuming paranoia, comes to his senses on a very public platform and apologises—without without limit or excuse.

“That seems to me an act of such rare humility that to do justice to it Shakespeare conjures a true fairy tale in which grief, repentance, patience, love and common sense are all in the end rewarded.

“I'm setting my production in the 1950s in a monarchy that has known fascism—an imagined Spain where politics, religion and power are deeply intertwined, moving later to 1969 to the north east of England in which real labour and a deep sense of community seem gloriously healthy, loving and straightforward by comparison.”

Whyman, deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, added, “I have a gift of a cast and I'm proud to be working with two deaf actors, William Grint and Bea Webster, who, as they translate Shakespeare's words into BSL, bring a wonderful freshness and attentiveness to the rehearsal room.”

Joseph Kloska takes the role of Leontes. He played Tiro in Imperium, based on The Cicero Trilogy by Robert Harris, adapted for the RSC by Mike Poulton, in 2017 and 2018. He also appeared in 2014 in Phil Porter’s The Christmas Truce, the first production Whyman directed for the RSC.

Kemi-Bo Jacobs makes her RSC debut as Hermione. She played Emma in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at Derby Theatre in 2017, Thea in Brian Friel’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at Salisbury Playhouse in 2016 and Ann Deever in All My Sons at Manchester Royal Exchange in 2013.

Ben Caplan (Camillo) also makes his RSC debut. He is known for his role as Sergeant Peter Noakes in the BBC TV series Call the Midwife. On stage, he appeared in Rajiv Joseph’s Describe the Night at Hampstead Theatre in 2018 and Ted in Simon Block’s adaptation of Jack Rosenthal’s The Knowledge at Charing Cross Theatre in 2017 as well as playing George Tesman alongside Kemi-Bo Jacobs in Hedda Gabler.

Amanda Hadingue plays Paulina. She was one of seven actresses playing Joan Littlewood in Sam Kenyon’s Miss Littlewood in the Swan Theatre, Stratford in 2018 which was directed by Whyman.

Andrew French plays Polixenes. He was Friar Laurence in Whyman's production of Romeo and Juliet which toured in 2019.

The rest of the cast comprises Alice Blundell (Dorcas), Alfred Clay (Archidamus), Colm Gormley (Antigonus), William Grint (young shepherd), Vicky Hall (Mopsa), Avita Jay (Cleomenes), Zoe Lambert (shepherdess), Georgia Landers (Perdita), Mogali Masuku (Dion), Dyfrig Morris (mariner), Baker Mukasa (lord), Anne Odeke (Autolycus), Bea Webster (Emilia) and Assad Zaman (Florizel).

The role of Mamillius will be cast with four young actors from Silhouette Youth Theatre, based in Northampton.

The creative team features Tom Piper (set designer), Madeleine Girling (costume designer), Prema Mehta (lighting), Isobel Waller-Bridge (music), Jeremy Dunn (sound) and Anna Morrissey (movement).

The Winter’s Tale will run from Saturday 28 March until Friday 2 October. Press night will be Tuesday 7 April. It will be broadcast live in cinemas on 10 June.

The production will be cross-cast with The Comedy of Errors which runs from 25 April and Pericles, running from 15 August. All three will transfer to the Barbican, London and The Winter's Tale will go on a national tour in January 2021.