VIDEO: Winter’s Tale at Sheffield Crucible

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Review: The Winter’s Tale leaves a warm glow, writes Julia Armstrong

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch video highlights from the production.

Daniel Lapaine as Leontes in The Winter's Tale at Sheffield's Crucible to November 2, 2013.

Daniel Lapaine as Leontes in The Winter's Tale at Sheffield's Crucible to November 2, 2013.

One of Shakespeare’s least-performed plays has an admirably clear reading here, which displays why it is a shame that The Winter’s Tale is often overlooked.

Director Paul Miller handles the material very well and makes it really accessible to modern audiences.

The first half especially is a model of clarity, which is a good thing given the strangeness of the plot.

Daniel Lapaine does a really great job of portraying king Leontes, who wrecks his idyllic family life by falling suddenly and unexpectedly into a jealous rage, directed at his heavily pregnant queen.

His trail of destruction leaves his son dead from grief, his wife on trial and then apparently dead and his baby daughter abandoned on a foreign shore by the interval.

Claire Price is excellent on a welcome second stint at the Crucible this year as the wronged Hermione, who all too patiently bears the wrath directed at her.

It’s left to Barbara Marten, playing courtier Paulina, to heap all the righteous anger that is due to Leontes on her king’s head.

Marten is majestic and magnificent and you believe she could 
really bring a monarch to his knees in repentance.

The second half begins 16 years later, where the baby princess Perdita is growing up as a shepherd’s daughter, unaware of her real identity.

This is where the play is strange and jarring – from terrible tragedy we go to a beautifully-created scene of rustic merriment and all is light and laughter.

Some of this just does not work as well and starts to drag, although there are some lovely comic performances from Gareth Williams, Keir Charles as an amiable ukulele-playing villain and Patrick Walshe McBride.

However, if you can suspend your disbelief about the supernatural ending which reunites the royal family, this is a really enjoyable, if long, evening’s entertainment.

* Tickets for The Winter’s Tale, Crucible - Sheffield, which runs October 2 to November 2, 2013, are available in person from the theatre, call the Box Office: 0114 249 6000 or buy online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/the-winters-tale-13.