There’s a moral in this play – don’t overstay your welcome – especially if you are the guest of a king who is inclined to pathological jealousy.
Moving Stories professional actors, with students of the MA Music Theatre at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, explore the dark side of life at the court of the King of Sicilia, and later relish the colourful shift to the freedom of Bohemian living in this stylish musical production.
Director Emma Gersch is fascinated by the “wild bipolarity” of this play that sees the king wrongly accuse his over-staying guest of adultery with his queen. It is a mistake that results in his tears for 16 long winters before the wronged return from their banishment to Bohemia, to put things right.
Essentially, the only victims of the king’s tragic mistake are his son Mamillius, and poor old Antigonus, who exits after saving the life of the royal baby daughter, famously “pursued by a bear”.
In this production, Mamillius is represented by a puppet. He might be lifeless from the start, but he is touchingly cared for by a trio of attendants – Michal Harowicz, Hannah Edgar and Charlie Hamilton.
Composer Paul Barker and Douglas Grannell, Catrin Meek and Shama Rhaman, unusually blending double bass, harp and sitar, provide the actors with striking notes that veer from operatic to close harmony to crisp chants as they sing much of the text to enhance the drama.
It is a collaboration that works to perfection and is part of the contemporary look that is mirrored by an Ikea-style monotone boxed set in Sicilia, that is simply reversed to display the vivid colour of Bohemia.
The cast is headed by the magnetic actor Adebayo Bolaji as the king, who projects to the very top of the Minack auditorium – something some of the other actors should mimic.
He was in Cornwall last summer with Kneehigh, and will be appearing again as a GI in the outstandingly brilliant 946, directed by Emma Rice, at The Globe Theatre in London this month.
It is Emilia Parker as Paulina who makes the most defiant, determined and brave stand on behalf of the wronged queen, Lenore Scott, who might well have been seduced by the mesmeric real-life voice of Sasha Ghoshal as the visiting king.
Designer Kate Unwin presents a flock of sheep, herded by Lucy-Ellen Parker and her son Joe Stuckey, that are a delight in dazzling white knit and crochet ‘coats’.
Several actors share roles this week, but on the opening night, Charlie Burt appeared as an expressive Autolycus, Richard Lounds the loyal Camillus, Peter Wiedmann a chewed Antigonus, Daniel Julian was Florizel, Rich Go-2 the gaoler and Kelly Smith, Perdita.
Once again, Moving Stories give us an innovative well-paced production that is a mostly sunny Winter’s Tale.