King Leontes of Bohemia suspects his wife, Hermione, and his friend, Polixenes, of betraying him. When he forces Polixenes to flee for his life, Leontes sets in motion a chain of events ...
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Felicie and Charles have a serious if whirlwind holiday romance. Due to a mix-up on addresses they lose contact, and five years later at Christmas-time Felicie is living with her mother in ... See full summary »
Frédéric van den Driessche,
Out of work actor Joe volunteers to help try and save his sister's local church for the community by putting on a Christmas production of Hamlet, somewhat against the advice of his agent ... See full summary »
King Leontes of Bohemia suspects his wife, Hermione, and his friend, Polixenes, of betraying him. When he forces Polixenes to flee for his life, Leontes sets in motion a chain of events that lead to death, a ferocious bear, an infant left in the snow, young love, and a statue coming to life. Written by
As with all of Jane Howell's productions, this episode was performed on a single set. The change of the seasons, so critical to the movement of the play, is indicated by a lone tree whose leaves change colour as the year moves on, with the background a monochromatic cycloramic curtain, which changed colour in tune with the changing colour of the leaves. See more »
"The Winter's Tale" is one of the late romances, in which an improbable plot is overcome by authorial magic. Unlikely people go through even more unlikely ordeals and separations, only to be united in healing reconciliation in the last scene. The test is, do you get the shivers down the back when fractured people are made whole again at the end? Here the answer is yes.
Director Jane Howell uses a unit set which is unobtrusively effective all the way through. The visuals are in monochromatic white at first, then as the story progresses color is added in increasingly vivid tones. The actors often address themselves directly to the camera in tight closeup, so if you have a large-screen TV, you'll get to know these people real well.
Pace is generally good, though we do bog down with the sheep-shearing festival of rustics at the beginning of the second half. Shakespeare's clowns are often annoying, but they can clear the air. I just don't like slowing down for them.
Jeremy Kemp is excellent as the angry, paranoid King of the opening scenes. He glares into the camera lens and hisses his lines as the great screen villain he was. However, after the Oracle of Delphi pronounces his suspicions false and his wife innocent, Kemp never finds a way to physicalize his response and emotional transformation. You have to listen carefully to his well-recited lines, because you can't guess from his body what his reactions are.
Robert Stephens as Polixenes looks blurry and very much the worse for wear, but gives a detailed and professional performance nonetheless. Margaret Tyzack is formidable as Pauline. It's scandalous that this is her only appearance in the series. Anna Calder-Marshall, Debbie Farrington and David Burke are all superior, and Jeremy Dimmick is probably the best young boy in the whole cycle.
The rest of the cast is mostly fine, and many of them pop up again in Jane Howell's "Henry VI" trilogy plus "Richard III," and the "Titus Andronicus." This version of "The Winter's Tale" is good stuff, so don't hesitate.
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