Just when you thought everybody was off acting themselves silly at the Edinburgh Festival, the Purple Cast have snuck into the heart of Birmingham with an ambitious double bill featuring not one but two of Shakespeare’s late plays in a pocket-sized production that does them great credit.
A Winter’s Tale is one of the bard’s most beautiful and complex dramas exploring the workings of unreasoned jealousy in a cold climate before offering us the resolution of love and forgiveness in a fruitful summer. Director Wendy Ann Jeffries employs a neatly tailored version of the play which features some splendid performances. George C Francis did a great job as the ruler Leontes driven mad by his own unreasoned jealousy, while Kirsty Blakely visibly grew in confidence as his accused wife Hermione. Eleanor Mallinson charmed as her abandoned daughter Perdita, and Alan Wales who seems to specialise in playing men put into impossible positions gave an energetic performance as Camillo, the king’s wronged friend.
It never ceases to amaze how well The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play responds to any style of direction. Here its contrasts and complexities were made clear by the delightfully fresh approach of Director George C. Francis. The play’s wide-ranging issues, nature versus nurture, noble kingship contrasted with corrupt politics and the simplicity of first love set against various levels of villainy here sprang into fresh, vivid life. This necessarily stripped-down version nevertheless retained the play’s poetry, magic and humour and featured some lively playing especially by Mr. Francis himself as the uncivilised monster Caliban while Wendy Ann Jeffries was a refreshingly un-fey Ariel.
As the wizard Prospero Alan Wales made the very most of playing what must be one of the greatest of all Shakespearean roles. Eleanor Mallinson and Ryan Mcken made a charming pair as the puppyish young lovers Miranda and Ferdinand, while Kieron Attwood’s drunken butler Stephano was a triumph of characterisation.
These potted versions of two classic plays make for a stimulating night out whether you’re coming to the plays new or it’s a return match.
The production continues until tomorrow (August 27). For tickets contact The Old Joint Stock on 0121 200 0946 or reserve tickets online at email@example.com.