I went to see the cinema screening of A Winter’s Tale from the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. I wanted to see this for multiple reasons:
1) Judi Dench is in it,
2) it’s Shakespeare,
3) it’s directed by and with Kenneth Branagh
I’m posting this later (like a few weeks later, I went to see it 26/11/2015) than I’ve seen it because a friend of mine was going to see it live on stage and I didn’t want to spoil it for her. So for those still going to see it what follows might come over as spoilers.
The play starts out with a very Christmassy scene, a Christmas tree on stage Judi and a boy who’s playing on stage. Musicians get on stage from in the audience (that’s what I made up from the images I saw since I was in the cinema for a worldwide broadcast and not live in the theatre).
What happens next is that the queen of Sicily (Hermoine – yes my mind went to the other famous Hermoine when I heard the name) is very friendly with the king of Bohemia (Polixenes )and that the king of Sicily (Leontes) gets very jealous. So jealous he puts his wife in prison and although she is pregnant with his child doesn’t want to see her or the baby initially when it’s born. After seeing the baby he orders the baby to be abandoned in a desolate place. The news from the Oracle still being on its way and arriving after the banishment. The news states that there was no infidelity and that the baby was really the baby of the king of Sicily. The queen falls in swoon and is presumed dead. The next scene we see the baby being abandoned and the most famous stage directions from this play happen… “Exit, pursued by a bear.” – the person exiting was the one ordered to abandon the baby. The baby is found by a shepherd and his son.
At this time the intermission happens.
After intermission the show starts again with a bit of laughter – we get the announcement that 16 years have passed since the previous scene. This part of the play shows off some gaiety. There is a lot of dancing and singing.
We encounter Perdita (the baby grown up), she is a young, beautiful woman still in the care of the shepherd and his son. At this time, we also meet Florizel, who at this time just seems like a labourer, but as the play progresses we discover he’s the son of Polixenes. His father trying to break the couple apart. As they get married, Polixenes (who was in disguise), shows that he’s not happy with this betrothal and the couple( Perdita & Florizel) flee to Sicily. In Sicily, we find Leontes still in mourning after the “dead” of his wife and the loss of his daughter (who he also presumes is dead).
After this, the play gets into a high speed. Florizel and Perdita arrive in Sicily and Leontes is not the best host for them. The shepherd and son also arrive and tell the story how they found Perdita, and show the items that were found by her side, and as these items were items of the court of Sicily, they people of Sicily soon come to the conclusion that Perdita is the long lost daughter of Leontes.
The next moment we are going to see the statue of Hermoine, and as they weep for the loss of wife and daughter, the statue comes to life.
To finish the play we get a happy ending, the family is reunited and Perdita and Florizel are engaged (now with the approval of both their dads – and adopted dad).
The performances of Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench were magnificent. I had moments that I thought I recognised other actors from previous plays or television parts.I couldn’t place them and after looking at the cast list the only name I could really place was Adam Garcia.
I’m very happy to have had the chance to see this play, although not live but sometimes it’s impossible to get to London. So I’m one of the ones in favor of these broadcasts from the London stage to cinema’s around the world.
Next year they are also going to broadcast Romeo & Julia this way also from the Kenneth Branagh company – Richard Madden and Lilly James as the main characters – both once again reunited under a direction of Kenneth Branagh – as they were for Cinderella!