REVIEW: The Winter’s Tale at Square Tower, Portsmouth

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The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and, as such, the cast are under no pressure to do anything other than tell the story.

And The Southsea Shakespeare Actors did just that – with style, creativity, clarity and warmth.

Director Nick Downes had assembled a mighty cast. Andy Thomas and Rob Bartlett as Leontes and Polixenes – kings and friends who fall out in no uncertain terms – are the foundations upon which the plot is built. Thomas conveyed the agonies of jealousy with studied excellence and Bartlett’s betrayed friendship matured credibly into bitterness and anger.

The women, here, came off particularly well. Susie Coutts as the wronged Hermione and Sarah Parnell as the faithful Paulina gave astonishing, controlled performances of strength and integrity – but they had best watch out for up-and-coming Lara Cooper-Chadwick (Perdita) whose performance had gravitas, truth and subtlety far beyond her years.

Tim Suffolk and Aaron Holdaway made the notoriously difficult Shakespearean comic roles funny – always worthy of praise! – but the crowning glory of the piece, thanks to inspired direction, was the almost-wordless reconciliation between friends and family at the end of the play.

Beautiful, touching and just plain wonderful the whole thing was just a joy.