Latest review: The Winter’s Tale Re-Imagined  

Review by Lesley Finlay

Image Alastair Muir

On one of the first days of real summer, scores of people brought their children to the magical setting of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. That’s an accomplishment in itself when lolling around in bed or the garden might be the activity of choice – but to pitch up to see Shakespeare, well, that’s commitment.

The effort pays off as you enter this wonderful green London park where the flowers pump their scent with still vigour as if to enchant we theatre-goers in advance of this beautiful performance.

Book now while you can; this The Winter’s Tale – Reimagined for Everyone Aged Six and Over (to give it its full moniker) ends on Saturday and is a complete and utter treat. I wanted to watch it over again the minute the wonderful players left the stage.

When you have your tickets, arrive early, and enjoy the actors milling around, dancing simple steps, setting up youngsters to join in the fun at the sheep-shearing party. Imagine!

We loved the hilarious synopsis and introduction to the characters, explaining how costumes would transform them into another character; this simple device adds to the magic of theatre and puts us all at ease.

And so onto the tale – a story of jealousy, rivalry, love, banishment and redemption. Leontes (Guy Burgess) becomes jealous of the attention paid to his pregnant wife Hermione (Sirine Saba) by his dear friend Polixenes (Dean Nolan). The child Perdita (Kezrena James) is dispatched to sea, and rescued by a shepherd; she grows up in a bucolic haven and falls in love with Florizel (Lewis Goody), the son of Polixenes. When their true identities are revealed, the young lovers embark on a journey to make peace.

In between there are much larks to be had: not least with the physical comedy of Saba’s brilliant Autolycus, played with breath-taking physical and verbal energy; and the set-piece sheep shearing party where Polixenes and his trusty aide Camillo (Alexandra Maher) dance to the delight of the audience. David Price’s music is perfect – adding energy (as if the actors needed it) and takes in sea shanties, hip-hop and a couple of riffs of the doggedly ubiquitous Gangnam Style.

Colourful, loud, imaginative, Ria Parry’s production is an example of storytelling at its best. As Ink Pellet tweeted afterwards: ‘Every day should start this day!’