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RSC's The Winter's Tale: Grand Opera House York

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Tara Fitzgerald stars in Shakespeare's intense drama
The Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) production of The Winter's Tale stops off at York's Grand Opera House during a highly anticipated national tour in March.

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Tara Fitzgerald making her RSC debut. Photo Sheila Burnett

It opened at the company's flagship theatre in Stratford upon Avon in January when Tara Fitzgerald stirred up emotions in her RSC debut.

The Winter's Tale is an epic Shakespeare story of sexual jealousy, misplaced cruelty and abandoned children,which wouldn't be amiss in any soap opera.

For a start, The Winter's Tale has a glamorous cast, there's a cat fight between two women in love with the same man; and refreshingly, the distinctively Lancashire accents of residents in Bohemia would fit perfectly in Coronation Street.

Deemed a problem play because the first half is a psychological drama while the second section is a romantic comedy, director Lucy Bailey maintains an undercurrent of menace that makes the play more seamless. This production managed to gel both the horror and comedy into an intense drama.

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The Winter's Tale from the RSC .Photo Sheila Burnett


Bailey also wasn't afraid to use shock tactics at a couple of points to stop the audience from remaining complacent. The brutality shown by King Leontes to his wife and King Polixenes to his son bring gasps from the crowd.

The story follows King Leontes, of Sicilia, as he is consumed with bitter jealousy over unfounded fears that his wife Hermione (Tara Fitzgerald) is being unfaithful with his close friend Polixennes, king of neighbouring Bohemia. Leontes(Jo Stone-Fewings) resorts to drastic measures, which lead to his newborn daughter being discarded into the wild.

Stone-Fewings wonderfully depicts a man who becomes more and more mentally unhinged and Fitzgerald makes a strong RSC debut, stirringly defiant yet emotional as Hermione fights to save her life.

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The Winter's Tale with Tara Fitzgerald.Photo Sheila Burnett


After the interval, there's a far different mood as the story leaps 16 years into the future with the romantic escapades of the next generation. Hermione and Leontes' grown-up daughter Perdita, who is unaware of her parentage and a lowly shepherdess, is now in love with King Polixenes' son.

There's time for plenty frivolities, comic roguery and even morris dancing in Bohemia - a cliche of 'up north' if ever there was one - featuring sunbathers in deckchairs with handkerchiefs on their head and accents that are straight out of a Hovis advert.

Actor Pearce Quigley stands out in this half as lovable crook Autolycus with the funniest moments of the play. His chemistry with Perdita's rather dim adopted father and brother are delightful and envelope a warm-hearted spirit to the theatre - what could be better for a cold winter's night?

The Winter's Tale - Grand Opera House, York
March 19 - March 23.
Tickets cost 10 - 32.50 from RSC Ticket Website
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Why? World class Shakespeare performance
When: March 19 - March 23
Phone: 0844 847 2322
Where: Grand Opera House, York
Cost: 10 - 32.50
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