First published in The Times, Friday February 17 2017
The perennial problem in staging The Winter’s Tale is how to realise credibly its time-jumps and uncomfortable emotional leaps, not to mention the more fantastical elements in the story. “Exit, pursued by a bear” – perhaps the most famous stage direction in theatre history – is only one of several logistical challenges posed by the bard in this late play.
Max Webster, the director of this production for the Royal Lyceum, rejoices in Shakespeare’s dismantling of the conventions of dramatic storytelling, exhibiting a childlike delight in the fundamentals of putting on other people’s clothes and making up worlds. A kingdom is depicted through the use of paper crowns and a plywood castle. At one point the ensemble rolls out a carpet of grass with the words “scene change” scribbled on its underside. The vertical shutters that open and close on the scenes at the court of King Leontes (John Michie) frame proceedings in the style of a letterbox movie screen.