The consequences of a mad and jealous king’s actions wreak havoc in a happy family situation when King Leontes of Sicily (Myles Pollard) wrongly accuses his pregnant wife Hermione (Helen Thomson) of adulterous behaviour with his best friend Polixenes (Dorian Nkono). After giving birth to a daughter, Hermione is banished, Polixenes escapes back to his kingdom after being tipped off by loyal servant Camilo (Philip Dodd) that Leontes wishes to poison him. Even Leontes 10 year old son Mamilius (Rory Potter) after witnessing the distressing jealous rage of his father, disappears never to return. Hermione’s innocence is confirmed by the Oracle of Delphi but the King will not believe even this unshakeable testimony. The baby daughter is disowned by her father and is taken by servants and left in a basket in the desert, fortunately to be found and raised by a kind shepherd family and named Perdita. All this happens very rapidly and Shakespeare offers no explanation for this cruel and flaky behaviour of King Leontes who has swiftly destroyed an idyllic family life. As Perdita grows up in the kingdom of Bohemia, unaware of her royal lineage, she meets Polixenes son Florizel (Felix Jozeps) and the young couple fall in love, against the wishes of Polixenes.
After many years, King Leontes is struck by his terrible behaviour and cursed by midwife Paulina (Michelle Doake). Shakespeare wrote this play in the final years of his career and instead of the character development and anguish that you see in Hamlet and Othello, this play has little by way of character layers but focuses on the premise of whether such awful deeds can ever been forgiven and any recompense made. The final scene is an attempt to restore the sins of the past in the famous solemn statue scene. Directed by John Bell, this is the Bell Shakespeare company’s latest offering. A fairy tale child like set with enchanting lights and toys contrasts with the severe and dreadful actions of the King, reminding of the childhood trauma that the Kings’ young son would have suffered before he disappeared. Superb performances, particularly from Michelle Doake whose sharp tongue is like a knife repeatedly stabbing the King’s conscience. Two acts over 3 hours with a 20 minute interval.
Playhouse Theatre Opera House, on now.