THE most famous line in The Winter’s Tale is not from a speech but a stage direction – “Exit, pursued by a Bear” – a situation straight out of the Brothers Grimm.
Is Shakespeare’s play a tragedy, a comedy, a romance? No matter: this tale of wilful rulers, convenient passages of time, separations and reconciliations is much better seen as a fairy story. And the Hampstead Players made it a real story. John Willmer’s direction kept the narrative flowing, aided by Margaret Willmer’s ingenious quick-change set.
The principal players revelled in the drama and pathos, and in the many comic, bucolic small parts the cast showed its ensemble skills.
There was also respect for the poetry, through which the cunning old Shakespeare turned this pantomime into a work of art. And the bear? Happily it wasn’t an actor in a shaggy costume but a combination of darkness, shadow and noise, all of which created a truly scary moment.
• The next Hampstead Players production will be Fiddler on the Roof on November 24, 25 and 26 at Hampstead Parish Church.
Published: 14 July, 2011
by BILL RISEBERO