A Shakespearean tale of romance and comedy in the park
August and September is when Shakespeare comes to the park in Brisbane. This year it is The Winter's Tale, a romantic and comedic tale of jealousy, betrayal and eventual reconciliation. We can always count on The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble to create an exciting and entertaining production filled with music and great performances.
This lesser known play has enjoyed periods of popularity over the centuries. The play is an interesting combination of romance, comedy and psychodrama, The Winter's Tale tells the story of The King of Sicilia's suspicious jealous towards his wife. He is convinced that she is having an affair with the King of Bohemia and plots to poison her. But she flees heavily pregnant with a child.
Image courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection
This psychodrama turns into romance 16 years later with the two kings' children. A roguish peddler and some other Shakespearean hi-jinks will add the comedic elements to bring the story to its happy conclusions.
This play, like those chosen for past productions by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, is lesser known but still a great Shakespearean play. Shakespearean scholars tend to label The Winter's Tale as a problem play. The only real problem is that they can't put it into a single category, such as comedy or romance. Which most people these days would not consider a real problem. So let's face it, this play has something for everyone, with a story that covers the workings of the court, the problems of jealous, how romance can save the day, and how all problems of misunderstandings can ultimately be laughed at.
About the Production and Venue
The play will be staged at the amphitheatre in the upper section of the Roma Street Parklands. For the play, they will setup the seats on the stage around the performance space. This means that even if it is raining, you will be under cover. The cast are on the stage as well, but they usually also make use of the whole space out into the amphitheatre, this creates both an intimate production while also providing an opportunity for staging within a much wider setting.
The auditorium at the Roma Street Parklands setup with the audience on the stage under cover
In addition, The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble likes to be musical with their productions. Their band will perform prior to the start of the play as people take their seats and during the intermission. They will also use music where needed within the play itself, though how much music will depend on the opportunities that the story presents.
The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble all adds lots of music to their performances
Founded in 2001, The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble has gained a reputation from their combination of experienced actors and young upcoming performers to create energetic, accessible and unique productions of Shakespeare's works.
Photo courtesy of The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
Along with their performances of Shakespeare, they are also known for their training programmes. This includes their prisons project which works with prisoners in Queensland to help give them a voice by teaching them classical acting training.
Photo of rehearsals at the amphitheater at the Roma Parks courtesy of QSE
Driving is no problem to the Roma Street Parklands as there is plenty of parking, though the main parking areas are on the far side of the park from the amphitheatre. You should be lucky and find some on street parking in Wickham Street, near the amphitheatre.
Public transport is also an option. Remember if you take a bus to the Roma Street Station you need to walk through the train station to get to the park. To do this, you just need to request one of the free walk through tickets at the ticket gate of the train station.
Dinner Before the Show
The area surrounding Roma Street Parklands has a few restaurants where you can enjoy a meal. The nearest to the amphitheatre is Frescos Restaurant and there are a couple more restaurants in that area.
My preference is actually to make use of the barbecue and picnic facilities in the park to provide my own catering. Drinking alcohol is permitted in the park at the Lakeside Barbecue area, so grab a bottle of wine and something to throw on the barbecue and have a lovely meal before the start of the play.
There are several barbecue areas in the parklands where you can have dinner before the show
If you are at all worried about walking about the park after dark, don't be. The park is well lit with plenty of people barbecuing, exercising or walking around. In fact, the park is very beautiful after dark and well worth visiting at night. There are also regular security patrols in the early evening.
At night the parklands is well lit with many people around and security patrols
The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble manages every year to put on a great Shakespearean production suitable for anyone with even a passing interest in The Bard. With both evening and afternoon performances, you can combine a night of theatre with a barbecue in the park.