This play of strange juxtapositions (captured in the double posters of Leontes and Autolycus) is not produced often, and so is well worth catching. The intensity of the opening Act (Othello re-written as Greek tragedy) comes across particularly well in the small Cube space, notably in Chris Heaney's performance as King Leontes of Sicily. Unlike Othello's, this jealousy explodes from nowhere, and is thus a different challenge for the actor, but Heaney certainly gets across his character's catastrophic disintegration. Audrey McCoy also expresses effectively his wife Hermione's bewilderment and, at the end of the play, her tender love (the famously extraordinary restoration scene is genuinely moving).
There is also a solid performance by Neil Hogan as Camillo and a strong one by Lesa Thurman as Paulina, Hermione's friend and saviour. The only real false note is Andy Blaikie's frantic and over-insistent clowning as Autolycus; less can be more in acting. Andy Hinds is the director, and a few minor glitches will no doubt be ironed out as the run progresses.
The production is reviewed in today's Irish Independent by Colin Murphy here. He concludes:-
The production is long, at three hours, and not always clear. But Hinds captures something of the ethereal strangeness in it, and that is appropriate on this winter's night.
James McMahon reviews it for RTE here, and concludes that it is :- a terrific success and, while the play has been considered one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays' (both halves seemingly at odds with each other), nothing appeared problematic in this production, with the ensemble completely at ease at all times. One could think of worse ways to wile away a winter's evening.
Added 19.01.09 -
In the Sunday Times yesterday, Declan Burke was less impressed, writing that the first three acts are well executed, Heaney's charged intensity rendering Leontes's derangement plausible. But the shift from impending tragedy to bliss in the final two acts appears to catch out the director, Andy Hinds. The choreography is crude, poor timing ruins too many comic lines, and only Lesa Thurman, as Hermione's friend and the tale's conscience, Paulina, successfully bridges the switch in tone with a compelling performance.
In the Sunday Business Post review, Sara Keating calls it a clear vision of this neglected drama in (an) intelligent, gripping and hugely entertaining production of the play.
In today's Irish Times review, Gerry Colgan writes that the fifth annual Shakespeare production by Classic Stage Ireland, directed as always by Andy Hinds, is well up to the standards the company has set for itself. It is a no-frills interpretation in which the characters are sharply etched and the verse dialogue is spoken with precision; a traditional homage to the author. The acting is controlled and persuasive, rising to scale dramatic peaks as required.