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The Winter’s Tale, Mercury Theatre, Colchester
The Winter’s Tale is a play of two halves.
It is also one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, which means it neither fits comedy nor tragedy, but shifts between the two.
It’s heavy going in the first half as jealous King Leontes (Tim Treslove), continuing where he left off with his magnificent Eddie Carbone earlier this year, accuses his wife of infidelity.
With his son and wife dead through the injustice of his actions, and his infant daughter abandoned in a far away land, the king is left to deal with the guilt.
Thankfully, the second half is a lot lighter with comic touches from good-for-nothing Autolycus (a very funny David Tarkenter), some rather bawdy morris dancing and an appearance by the Mercury's Community Acting Company, who always make things jolly when they appear on stage.
For obvious reasons, I rather liked the latter, but I suppose without the trauma of the first half the final scenes would not have had the feelgood factor they did.
Some great performances helped, notably by Nadia Morgan as King Leontes’ wife, Shuna Snow as Paulina and Ignatius Anthony as Polixenes.
Actor Ben Livingstone’s music also added beautiful melancholy moments, along with fellow actor Pete Ashmore’s violin playing.
I also liked the 1930s setting, with its menacing authoritarian feel with a nod to Mussolini’s blackshirts in the first part, matched with the simple rural idyll of the second.
Another triumph by the Mercury Theatre Company?