There is no denying the team spirit and camaraderie exhibited by the all male Company, Propeller, in their latest productions at the Rose Theatre Kingston.
This was the perfect venue for two of Shakespeare’s plays this week as the Theatre mirrors the original staging and audience seating with the Pit echoing the role of the groundlings.
A Winters Tale opened with a predominately silver and grey set setting the scene for the formal court of King Leontes. This was to be in stark contrast to the second half of the play where flamboyant costumes colour and comedy entertained the audience and the stage became alive with life and energy. Reminiscent of a hippy festival, it appeared totally appropriate to the action of the story. The flair and imagination for set design linked to a more modern setting worked extremely well. The actors performed the scene changes with such fluidity and slickness that at times it appeared as if the change had happened in the blink of an eye.
This is a long play, but at times the actors sped through their speeches hardly taking time to breathe. I felt the nuances of speeches in some cases were lost. It seemed to be important to express the overriding emotions but the language became one dimensional and, for me, lost its richness at times. The marrying of performance and speech was notable in the role of Paulina played by Vince Leigh. There was a gravitas and honesty that portrayed this woman’s emotions perfectly. Likewise, full weight was given to Shakespeare’s speeches by Polixenes , played by Nicholas Asbury.
Karl Davis as the Young Shepherd and John Dougall as the Old Shepherd were perfect foils for each other. Their comedy timing and characterisations lifted and enhanced scenes. Tony Bell as Autolycus was outstanding in his performance as the rogue giving the audience a chance to admire his con tricks and musicality!
The constant inclusion in scenes of the dead king’s son, Maximillius, was extremely poignant. This character is often forgotten after the first scenes but in Propellers version he serves as a constant reminder that the play is a tragedy and he linked all the action that followed his father’s jealous actions.
Special mention must be given to the ‘sheep’ whose costumes, mannerisms and vocal accompaniments were a highlight of the show. Sound effects produced by the cast, for example in the court scenes where the actors produced notes by stroking the rims of their wine glasses, produced an eerie background to Leontes soliloquies and other stage action.
Whether performing the witty, elegant court scenes or the incense laden ‘hippy scenes’ Propeller never lost sight of their commitment to performance. The total involvement and investment of all fourteen cast members is evident giving the audience a show to remember and enjoy.
Performed at the Rose Theatre Kingston.