Unappealing and unmagical
marcabru | 08/27/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Sadly, this is not the kind of performance that is required for this late romance of Shakespeare. It is prosaic, with unattractive sets and in a wholly inappropriate vaguely 19th century setting and costuming. The acting is also a bit over-emphatic. Thus, the fantasy and suspension of belief required of oracles and lost princesses and restored queens clashes constantly with the more realistic setting. I hope someday someone can capture a beautiful stage production of this play as well as Cymbeline, Pericles, Tempest and Measure. To see a well done late Shakespeare quasi-comedy see Twelfth Night directed by Trevor Nunn with Bonham Carter, Stubbs etc."
Wonderful Stage Production
W.F. | Seacoast, NH | 06/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This filmed stage recording is indeed magical. I believe a former critic's particular critique in this regard should be regarded in the light of two distinguishing characteristics of Shakespeare on film: whether the production is a film interpretation or a filmed stage production. This DVD is the latter: over-the-top FX, panoramic view and the like don't necessarily apply. Here one has the magic of being in the audience at a grand performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the added pleasure of being granted close-ups! The acting is all-around sublime, especially Ian Hugh's Autolycus; I've yet to see a rogue interpreted better.
For a contrast of what can be accomplished with Shakespeare as film interpretation versus filmed stage production, compare Orson Welles' Othello with Richard Burton's Hamlet (both available through Amazon); both, I believe, are the ideal of each venue."
About as good as it gets...
Matthew Davidson | Houston, TX United States | 02/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a bit of a cliché to call A Winter's Tale a problematic play, but I'll confess I've always found it more interesting than truly masterful. This production, however, solves most of the problems I find just reading the words on the page. Of particular note is Antony Sher's Leontes, who manages to make the monarch's lightning turn from loving husband to jealous madman credible (as seemingly difficult as successfully carrying off Richard III's wooing of Lady Anne), and so well does this production sustain the tension that, when Hermione's death is announced near the end of the third act, the impact is visceral in its power. Acts IV and V, of course, display a radical shift in tone, but here the shepherd's interlude is genuinely entertaining (as opposed to tedious), helped in no small measure by Ian Hughes' scene-stealing turn as Autolycus. I was curious how the bear effect and disguises were going to be handled, and though I feared the worst, I was pleasantly surprised in both instances. This leaves only the resolution in Act V that I find (from the source material) rather drawn-out and silly; I understand it is only a "tale," but I just don't believe it really works. This production does nothing to change that view, although I'll freely admit, the fault is probably mine (it must be, since this is often called one of the most touching scenes in the canon). On the whole, this is about as good a filmed Shakespearean stage production as I have seen, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those interested in the play. One quibble: there is no subtitle option, which would be useful were I ever to decide to teach the play in the future."
Telling A Winter's Tale
Lyle H. Smith | 01/13/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Shakespeare - The Winter's Tale / Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Theatre
I'm no fan of productions of Shakespeare's plays that employ modern settings, or period settings that are clearly later than the time setting of the play itself. This RSC production of The Winter's Tale is, judging by costume, clearly set in the period 1890-1914, so that references to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, "Sicilia", "Bohemia" are distracting anachronisms. All the same, Hermione and Perdita are well played, and once one gets used to the fact that one is seeing a film of a staged play things go along fairly well. Autolycus steals the show, I'm afraid. He is very entertaining, but as an embodiment of the principle of error, surrender to the impulses of "stronger blood," he cannot be taken seriously, and so the play's central theme which binds the last two acts to the first three is not well served. Nevertheless I liked the DVD well enough to use it in my undergraduate Shakespeare class."