The Garden Suburb Theatre (GST) is a friendly and welcoming amateur theatre company.

We are a registered charity promoting involvement in the Dramatic Arts in North London. We welcome anyone who wishes to learn more about drama, either by participating in or coming to watch one of our diverse programme of shows.

Review

Paulina is the prime mover in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. It is she who announces the death of Hermione, she who brings Leontes' baby daughter to him, she who is brave enough to tell him he is insane to believe that Hermione and Polixenes have cuckolded him. And it is Paulina who requires that all 'awake your faith' in the goodness of her magic that brings Hermione back to life and sets in motion the fairy tale dénouement.

Colin Gregory, director of the Garden Suburb Theatre's production in the appropriately fairy-tale setting of Little Wood at the foot of Hampstead Heath, cast Paulina well. Playing Paulina, Mary Groom grasped the production with both hands and in her key speeches in the first half, delivered with great clarity and emotional force, she gave Steven Maddocks, playing Leontes with assurance, something substantial to work with. His response, as his self-generated jealousy moved through realisation of his terrible error to grief and the germ of repentance, grew in emotional depth. In the second half Leontes was very clearly an older and wiser man, the character's development fully conveyed. Paulina's authority continued into the final scene of the play.

Also strong was Camillo, played by Amos Witztum, whose misery at his forced departure from Sicilia and his strong desire to return, after 16 years exile in Bohemia, were believable. Jessica Lowery played Hermione, a difficult part, well. She conveyed clearly the dignity of her heartfelt protestation of innocence at her trial and the warmth of her forgiveness of Leontes in the final scene of the play. Geoff Prutton and John Colmans as Shepherd, son and father, got Bohemia off to a good start.

Too many voices were underpowered for the outdoor setting, coming from the throat rather than the diaphragm and tending to the higher registers, creating a thinness of tone. There was a lack of variety in pace, giving a slightly heavy-footed rhythm to the performance. The wide stage of Little Wood led to some unnecessary route marches to and fro when stillness and a concentration on the words and their meaning would have been preferable. The music, essential to create the atmosphere of the sheep-shearing feast and the mystery of the unveiling of the statue, was too quiet.

The costuming was a delight, well designed and made, forming coherent patterns of bright colour appropriate to the changing scenes. The tableaux of characters were elegant and created charming stage pictures set against the deep green of the foliage and the trunks of the trees. The choreography by Rachel Berg was good, the dancers well-practised, and a dance with tragic masks before the statue scene was particularly poignant. Jessica Lowery's statue of Hermione was still, well-lit and offered an elegant surprise as she came to life.

It was a lovely evening watching and hearing a strange story well told, the audience was closely attentive, held by the performances of the actors and by the visual and psychological magic of the production.

Review by Ian Grant

This is a review of Winter's Tale

The original review is here: Creative Structure blog