Review: Propeller’s The Winter’s Tale

What country friends is this? Photo: Manual Harlan

For the current season Propeller have created a pretty much pitch perfect Henry V but on this evidence it seems The Winter’s Tale is one play which Hall’s all-male company cannot conquer.

Perhaps more so than any of his plays, Shakespeare’s tragi-comedy explores the relationship between men and women and, more poetically, between the masculine and the feminine; Hall’s production doesn’t quite pull off this delicate process. Within the world of the play the importance of female endurance and faithfulness is highlighted and the idea of redemption is examined. This potent feminine strength is personified not only in Hermione’s dignified exile but in Paulina’s constant vocal protest. Redemption comes in the balanced equality of Perdita and Florizel’s love where no one holds the upper hand.

Propeller’s production fails to fully illuminate this aspect of the text. While their Henry V was as complex and layered as it was full-blooded, this is one play where the all-male company struggle to convey Shakespeare’s emotional intricacies. In this case their maleness counts against them – and although Richard Dempsey and Vince Leigh give solid performances as Hermione and Paulina respectively, theirs is not a feminine strength we see put to the test.

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Review: Propeller’s Henry V

Once more unto the breach. Photo: Manual Harlan

This Propeller production of Henry V – performed in repertoire with The Winter’s Tale – is my third Henry V in as many weeks. But this is a Henry to conquer all others. All-male theatre company Propeller are the perfect troupe to tackle this testosterone laden play and they do so with relish in a production which is as relentless as it is engaging.

As a friend commented, this is blockbuster Shakespeare. Everything about it is punchy and impressive. Even the scene changes are masterly in their  choreography, entertaining in their own right.

The piece is powered by a chorus made up of eloquent but bluntly spoken squaddies. Edward Hall’s production places the action firmly in the now, with a soundscape of war that raises hairs on the back of your neck as bullets hiss by. The strong ensemble cast switch between supporting characters just as quickly. These men are, on one hand, aggression-fuelled fighting machines and on the other, vulnerable, human, men of flesh and blood. With the connection between actor and audience at the forefront of every choice, the production offers both detailed realism and enlarged Elizabethan playing.

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Exeunt Critics’ Picks of 2011

LOTS of fabulous picks here by some people who really know their stuff including some expected and not so expected pieces. Wish I could have mentioned London Road, wish I could have seen Mission Drift…

Originally published on Exeunt

Of course we are wary of the arbitrary nature of these things, the artificiality of seasons, the ordering of experiences into peaks, the hierarchal maps they reproduce, the dangers of placing Fabulous ones next to Those who have just broken a vase.  However at some point you have to be practical.  Our critics have valiantly seen a metric stage-tonne of theatre this year, so what better to relive with sufficient context their most notable moments? And from here it looks like they have produced a list unrivalled for its scope, depth and surprises.  So without further ado-ing, and in no particular order…

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