A Winter’s Tale or A Child Hath Found Her Mother

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Three Stars

The tables are set, the bunting is out and everyone is prepared to eat cake in this new take on one of Shakespeare’s so-called ‘problem plays’, meaning a work too willfully contrary with its own style to be dubbed either comedy or tragedy. Or, as latter day parlance might deem this dense story of misguided jealousy, emotional and physical exile and inevitable reconciliation; it’s complicated.

These complications are wrapped up in several other layers in Marc Silberschatz’s production, performed by Masters students from the RCS’ Contemporary and Classical Text course. As if Good King Leontes’ throwing his rattle out of the pram wasn’t enough after he accuses his old pal Polixenes of doing the dirty with his Queen Hermione, little does he know that his long lost daughter Perdita has her eye on dangerous liaisons of her own.

Silberschatz’s own adaptation duly turns the play upside down, with additional text by Thomas Dekker and inspiration in part from American novelist Kathryn Davis. So Polixenes’ son Florizel is here a daughter called Calantha. Both names relate to flowers in bloom, and Calantha’s disguise as boy-shepherd Doricles has a Yentl-like frisson as she tries identities out for size in a thoroughly modern kingdom.

If such a shift risks distracting from the mess Leontes makes of things, it also reveals him as a man out of time. The play is powered by a nuanced performance from Andy Camichel as Leontes, who looks every inch the small-town dignitary posing for photo-ops at the church fete. With Catherine King’s live British Sign Language interpretation woven into the action, there is fine ensemble support led by Jaimee Aislyn de Witt as Leontes and Hermione’s son Mamillius, with Eddi Asher’s Perdita and Emilia Wallace’s Calantha making the cutest of couples. The cake may be left untouched at the end, but winter is about to turn to spring.