Blow hot and cold;Set Plays;Reviews;General;Theatre

29th January 1999 at 00:00
THE WINTER'S TALE. Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Stratford-upon-Avon. Tickets: 01789 295623.

In Gregory Doran's intelligent but puzzlingly unmoving production, almost every character directly addresses the audience. Leontes singles out a particular spectator as Sir Smile. Camillo engages us with a conspiratorial raised eyebrow as he dons his false beard. Hermione passionately appeals to the audience as jury.

Leontes's 19th-century court may be buttoned-up, in their costumes and their emotions, but Doran ensures that as many religions as possible contribute to the slow journey that unlocks love and reconciliation.

Set and style mirror characters' emotions. The court's walls physically close in as Leontes's jealousy deepens. A huge curtain billowing overhead changes colour with each switch of mood.

Antony Sher charts each aspect of Leontes's obsessive jealousy. He counts on his fingers as he lists Hermione's infidelities. He searches her handbag, and flashes from taut control to violent aggression.

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