1 THE WINTER'S TALE Introduction to the Royal Shakespeare ...

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Nov 10, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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1

THE WINTER

匠SALE


Introduction to the Royal Shakespeare Company 2013
production


Introduction and set


Welcome to this introduction to the audio described performance of
the 2013 production of William Shakespeare

s
The Winter

猠呡汥
.


The set, costumes an
d video have been designed by William
Dudley, with lighting design by Oliver Fenwick and music by Jon
Boden. The Director is
Lucy Bailey
.


The production lasts for approximately three hours and twenty
minutes, including a twenty
-
minute interval. The audi
o describers,
in order of speaking, will be Julia Grundy and Janet Jackson.


It is generally agreed that
The Winter's Tale

was written around
1609
-
11. The first recorded performance of the play was at The
Globe on 15 May 1611, and later that year it was p
resented at
Whitehall, before King James I. In 1613 the play was presented as
part of the wedding celebrations of James' daughter Elizabeth to
Frederick V, later King of Bohemia.


Shakespeare's principal source was Robert Greene's popular novella
Pandost
o:

The Triumph of Time
, first published in 1588 and then
reprinted in 1607 as Dorastus and Fawnia. Although there are
frequent linguistic echoes of Greene's tale, Shakespeare changed
the characters' names and introduced several alterations to the
plot.

2


T
his production has been updated to the end of the 1860

s, the
height of the Pre
-
Raphaelite movement, and the accompanying
medievalist revival. A magical sunlit land high on a cliff over the sea
is presumably Sicilia, but Bohemia has clearly been relocated
to the
North West coast of England, in particular during Wakes Week, the
traditional annual holiday period in the summer when all the
factories closed and the workers headed for the coast, liberated by
the spread of the railways.


As we enter the theatre,
vivid colours fill the auditorium, as the
stage is set for the first part of the play, in Sicilia. Within the
framework of the red brick proscenium arch, the entire back wall is
an expanse of projected rippling blue sea, as if seen from above
with the wav
es, which move diagonally, bathed in sunlight. An
irregular stone shape is silhouetted against the blue in the lower
centre of the sea, in warm sandstone and terracotta tones, possibly
a rocky outcrop at the bottom of a cliff. At the outer edges slender
trees with spreading bright green foliage contrast with the sparkling
blue of the sea. The bricks of the arch are darker at the lower level,
as if smoke blackened. In the centre of the stage, a semi
-
circle of
six grey marble steps, some four to five metr
es across at the base,
lead up to a dais on which stands a curved stone seat with delicate
ivory coloured tracery in its back and ends, facing us. There is a
space behind the dais wide enough for people to walk or dance
through.


Richly coloured silk and
brocade cushions are scattered on the seat,
and silver topped crystal flagons stand on the outer edges of the
steps, ready to fill large, ornate silver and gold goblets. On the
projections behind, shadows of the stone ornamented semi circle
3

appear to eith
er side of the terrace, but lower down and less
distinct. Books are strewn across the steps, left open, as if the
reader has been interrupted, and on the top right of the steps, a
gold crown has been discarded.


On the large expanse of forestage in front
of the dais, piles of more,
and larger, richly covered cushions are spread over an elaborately
patterned Persian carpet immediately below the steps, and on
loosely spread silk cloths, patterned with vibrant colours, which
cover part of the carpet and exten
d to the front of the stage. At the
right front corner of the stage stands a multi
-
stemmed hookah or
hubble
-
bubble pipe, enabling two or three people to smoke the
scented tobacco, or sheesha, cooled by the water in its base.


As we wait for the performance

to begin, the lights on the stage are
dimmed, but as the action starts, bright lighting enriches the colour
and the exoticism. Actors bring more props on with them, including
three more hookah pipes, which they share as they loll barefoot and
indolent, s
moking and drinking in the bright sunlight.


As the action moves indoors, the background and the dais with its
seat remain, but the scene becomes more intimate and a little more
formal as the mood darkens. The sea gradually becomes rougher
and darker, unt
il the rock formation is stark and monochrome, its
centre looking almost like a volcanic caldera, and the trees at the
edges, black leafless silhouettes. When we reach a public space,
set for a trial, the carpet has been swept away too, and the ground
is
a grey stone expanse.


As the action moves to Bohemia, the steps become the base of a
harshly industrial looking tower, constructed from six curved panels
of rusty iron, tapering as they rise to the very top of the proscenium
4

arch, some eight or nine metre
s high, where the fretted stone seat
provides a frame for the circular edge of its top.


On the coast of Bohemia, we see the sea, now grey and stormy, not
as if viewed from above, but as it rolls inshore, with a sailing ship,
rolling and pitching a short
way offshore.


During the interval, a large sheet of canvas like a sail is lowered to
hide the tower, and metallic banging can be heard from behind it.
As the second half is about to begin, this sail is furled and lifted
away and the tower is still there
in all its industrial rusting solidity,
with a cylindrical pipe of the same rusty iron, curving down from the
top left, snaking round the outside of the structure and reappearing
just below half way down at the right, both ends open, the lower
one a little

less than a metre wide. Also at the right, just above the
open end, a horizontal iron wheel has been added, as if to control a
pump or valve. The general effect combines industrial machinery
with the shape of a lighthouse, and a suggestion of a helter
-
s
kelter.


The projected background is now cloudy sky and grey sea, seen
from the shore, appropriate for its setting on the English northwest
coast. On the left a pier with lights along its side railings stretches
out to sea. The forestage has become a Vic
torian beach or
promenade, with a scattering of striped deckchairs. Leaning at the
side is a wooden tripod on which an old fashioned camera is
mounted.


Later, when the story returns to Sicilia, the rusting tower turns
round, and we see for the first time

that it is not circular as it
appeared, but hollow, and the interior has a construction of floors
and spiral staircase in cast iron open work, casting grid like
shadows.

5



Characters and costumes


Polixenes, King of Bohemia is paying a visit to the court
of his close
friend, Leontes, King of Sicilia and his Queen, Hermione. Leontes
and his court live a gilded existence, separated from the world
physically, and adrift from reality in their daily lives, indulging their
fascination for the gothic world in a
medievalist revival. The King
and his circle dress in spectacular, colourful silk robes, and the
women in flowing silk brocade dresses with deep sleeves, that
sweep the floor behind them. For official business the court reverts
to conventional nineteenth

century dress, the men in sober black
frock coats over white shirts and cravats, and the women

s dresses
have tight, corseted bodices and full skirts. The plump maids wear
blue grey dresses with white aprons and plain white caps.


Leontes

is a fine look
ing man in his forties, Byronically handsome,
his wavy black hair attractively tousled and flopping over his
forehead, with razored sideburns tracing the line of his high
cheekbones. He has dark eyes, and a shapely mouth, which
however has a hint of petul
ance when things don

t go the way he
expects. He wears a silk robe patterned with vivid, vertical stripes,
over black trousers and a bronze brocade waistcoat. The collar of
his shirt falls open and a bronze silk scarf hangs loose round his
neck. Like al
l the other men and women of his circle he

s barefoot.


Hermione
, his queen, has the looks to match her handsome
husband. Slim and beautiful, her long brown hair tumbles around
her fine
-
featured face. Dark eyes enhance the intensity of her
6

naturally seri
ous expression, though when her generous mouth
widens to a smile, her whole face lights up, her innate kindliness
glowing through. She wears a high
-
necked medieval style dress of
red and gold brocade with deep sleeves, the flowing style fitting her
figure

closely, revealing the swell of her pregnant stomach. The
couple already has a young son,
Mamilius
. He

s a slim boy of
about seven with shoulder length hair, playing in a silver outfit that
suggests chainmail, under a tabard, that

s quartered red and bl
ue
with the British royal coat of arms.

Leontes is played by Joe Stone
-
Fewings, and Tara Fitzgerald is
Hermione. Mamilius is played by either Fred Barry, Conner Hughes
or Luca Saraceni
-
Gunner.


Polixenes,
played by Adam Levy, is the same height and compac
t
build as his friend, and has the same romantically handsome looks,
with thick wiry brown hair above an attractive face with a fine
profile. He wears a black and gold robe above black brocade
waistcoat, and his black trousers rolled up to the knee, as if

he

s
been paddling in the ocean. His engaging smile keeps his looks
boyish, though he

s about the same age as his friend.


Leontes


counselor
Camillo

is a slim man with close
-
cropped sandy
hair and beard. The slight bags under his eyes and his quiet ser
ious
manner make him appear older than the other courtiers around the
King. He looks the part of a medieval counselor too, a chestnut
brocade robe over a gown with a round neck, and a black velvet cap
with turn up brim on his head. Later he dons a sober
frock coat.
Daniel Betts plays Camillo.


7

Antigonus

is another of Leontes


courtiers, a little older than the
others, a big burly man, with a mane of dark hair and a full white
beard that frames his broad face. He

s a bluff, calm presence,
dressed in black

trousers and waistcoat over a white shirt. His wife
Paulina

is a complete contrast from her placid husband. Played by
a black actress, she is short and wiry with a striking face, masses of
glossy black curls tumbling down from her high forehead, with
sh
rewd eyes and jutting chin. Paulina doesn

t take part in the
medieval fantasies of the King and his circle. Her definite manner
and brisk swings of her arms, combined with her searching, direct
gaze could make her an unsettling rather than relaxing compa
nion.
Her black satin dress is in more conventional nineteenth century
style, the full skirt sweeping the floor, and adorned with little tucks
and flounces. Antigonus is played by Duncan Wisbey, and Paulina
by Rakie Ayola.


The rest of the courtiers are
attractive young men and women,
dressed in colourful silk robes and dresses, some of the men in flat
velvet caps, who drape themselves around the idyllic surroundings
of the court, all barefoot. Later the men remove their robes to
reveal black trousers an
d waistcoats above white shirts, and later
still they don black frock coats. Standing out are
Cleomenes

and
Dion
, two earnest young men, both stocky with short red blonde
hair, who set off for the oracle in typical Victorian tourist outfits,
tweed suits a
nd sturdy walking boots and draped with a box
brownie, binoculars and small canvas rucksack. Among the ladies
in waiting
Emilia

is a classic Pre
-
Raphaelite beauty, with pale fine
-
featured face and a mass of wavy auburn hair that falls down her
back. Cle
omenes and Dion are played by Joseph Pitcher and
Daniel Millar, and Bethan Walker is Emilia.

8


In Bohemia, an
Old Shepherd

is a stout, weather
-
beaten man in
his sixties, with a rounded lined face and thinning white hair and
scrubby beard. He

s grubby from
tending his flock, and his elderly
blue frock coat has seen better days, with his trousers tucked into
boots and a sou

wester on his head. His son, the
Young
Shepherd
, towers over him, he

s a tall very fat man, who isn

t that
young, probably in his thirt
ies, with a shaven bullet head, small
eyes, and stubble on the chin of his large rosy face. He too is filthy,
wearing a voluminous greasy leather jacket and round leather cap,
with a flap that protects the back of his thick neck. As the story
moves on six
teen years and fortune favours them, both father and
son wear matching caramel coloured suits, the jackets adorned with
lots of brass buttons and dark brown velvet trimming on collar and
cuffs. The Old Shepherd is played by David Shaw
-
Parker and his
son b
y Nick Holder.


Perdita,

the shepherd

s adopted daughter (in fact the lost daughter
of Leontes and Hermione) is a slim pretty young woman, with the
same colouring as her mother, tumbling brown hair and a pale skin
with dark eyes, a pert little nose and a p
retty mouth. Her open,
uncomplicated manner has echoes of her mother

s kind smile.
Dressed for the Wakes Week festivities she wears a simple white
dress and a garland of flowers adorns her hair. Emma Noakes plays
Perdita.


Her beau Doricles (in reality
F
lorizel
, son of Polixenes) has a mop
of curly black hair and unshaven chin. He

s a compact, lively young
man, easygoing and friendly, taking a boyish pleasure in the
9

traditional dancing. And he

s dressed in the uniform of the other
dancers, white shirt a
nd tight red velvet knee breeches, held up by
colourful braces, above white socks and sturdy boots. Florizel is
played by Gavin Fowler.


Their companions in the festivities wear coarse work clothes, the
men in rough trousers and shirts, with flat caps; th
e women have
worn cotton print dresses and scarves and shawls round their
shoulders. Two plump, rosy
-
cheeked girls,
Mopsa

and
Dorcas
,
wear dark cotton print blouses over coarse blue grey bloomers, with
ribbons at the knee and sturdy boots. One has a mass

of red curls
and the other wears her brown hair up. The Morris dancers are
dressed like Florizel, in scarlet breeches and shirts, donning clogs
for the dance.


The conman
Autolycus
,

played by Pearce Quigley, arrives to sell
his wares and pick a few pocke
ts. A thin spare man, he has grizzled
greying hair and beard, with a lined deadpan face. He travels in a
shabby old
-
fashioned round
-
necked frock coat above narrow
trousers. His deceptively quiet, soft spoken manner disguises his
talent for deception; he

travels with a portable booth, from which
he emerges in silken turban and striped pantaloons to sell his
dubious goods.


Autolycus' tent
-
like booth can be carried furled like an enormous
umbrella, quickly planted in the sand and opened out into a slim
cir
cular structure, with a simple slit entrance at one side. It has
faded from its original bright red and white striped top and union
flag decoration on one side, but still retains its different aspects as
it

s turned round. One side has a small oblong open
ing with a
movable flap, like a Punch and Judy booth, and another side
10

advertises fortune telling. Autolycus mounts a wooden crate to
address his customers.


A synopsis of the story


Polixenes, King of Bohemia, has been on a nine
-
month visit to the
court

of his childhood friend Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his wife,
Queen Hermione.

Groundlessly, Leontes becomes convinced that his heavily pregnant
wife has been having an affair with Polixenes.

He tries to persuade his most trusted courtier, Camillo, to
poison
Polixenes.

Convinced of the queen's innocence, Camillo warns Polixenes and
they depart for Bohemia together.


Another courtier, Antigonus, is ordered to leave Hermione's newly
born daughter on a desert shore.

Leontes tries Hermione for treason; w
hen he denies the truth of the
god Apollo's oracular declaration of her innocence, his son Mamillius
dies. He is then told that the queen has also died.

Antigonus leaves the baby girl on the coast of Bohemia, where he is
torn to pieces by a bear. An old s
hepherd and his clownish son find
the baby, bring her up as a member of their family and name her
Perdita.


Sixteen years later

Perdita is being courted by Polixenes' son,
Prince Florizel, who has disguised himself as a shepherd, Doricles.

The roguish pe
dlar Autolycus tricks the shepherds out of money.
Polixenes and Camillo come in disguise to the countryside; when
the king denounces his son for courting a low
-
born shepherdess,
Florizel and Perdita flee to Sicilia, with the assistance of Camillo.

11


The tr
uth comes out

the shepherd and Autolycus follow, bringing
tokens that reveal Perdita's true identity. That which was lost
having been found, Paulina, the lady most loyal to Hermione,
reveals a statue of the dead queen and tells the assembled
company to p
repare themselves for a great wonder.


That is the end of the introduction to The Winter

s Tale. You may
wish to note that this introduction was recorded early in the play

s
run, and changes in set and costumes may occur as the run
progresses. We will in
corporate any changes into the live
introduction, beginning fifteen minutes before the start of the show.
To request audio introductions to future RSC productions, please
call 0844 800 1114 or email
access@rsc.org.u
k

to receive them.