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A Winter's Tale - Review

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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Shakepeare's The Winter's Tale at Roma Street Parklands
Once again, the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble brings Shakespeare to Roma Street Parklands. I had the opportunity to catch the opening night performance of The Winter's Tale. The result is a good and humanising production of one of Shakespeare's more difficult works. A must-see of the theatre year for lovers of Shakespeare.

Photo courtesy of The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
Photo courtesy of The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble

About The Winter's Tale

There is both good and bad aspects of this lesser known play of Shakespeare's work. First of all, the downside is that the play starts with tense psychodrama, moves in ribald comedy and ends on a mystical and ambiguous note.

Painting by Charles Robert Leslie
Painting by Charles Robert Leslie

The good part is that while the play overall is not consistent, each part is well written. The first-act focused on a king driven by jealousy to act like a tyrant for very human reasons, while also destroying his own legacy. The middle part of the play is comedic and sets up the final act in which forgiveness (a common theme of Shakespeare's) reconciles both the living the dead.

It is easy to understand why this play has enjoyed periods of popularity over the centuries, only to return to obscurity. If you love Shakespeare though, you will forgive the play its weaknesses.

About the production

The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble uses the amphitheatre at Roma Street Parklands in a unique and wonderful way. The audience sits on the stage with the actors so you are protected from the rain. But the outdoor seating is used as part of the production space. For The Winter's Tale, the seating is decorated with lights to create a mystical ambience to the story.

The seats arranged on the stage
The seats arranged on the stage

On Saturday afternoon, they will be giving a relaxed performance. So you can enjoy an afternoon in the kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia from a comfy beanbag.

Photo of the relaxed Saturday afternoon performance seating courtesy of QSE
Photo of the relaxed Saturday afternoon performance seating courtesy of QSE

The production is simple yet effective. In addition, they incorporate music into the play. The band along with many of the actors will play prior to the start of the play and during the intermission.

The QSE band playing before the play
The QSE band playing before the play

The result is a fun production that looks to find every normalising or humanising aspect of the characters' story to make it as accessible as possible. Most importantly they are able to weld the disparate acts of the play to together reasonably seamlessly, in particular through Rob Pensalfini's performance as Leontes the Sicilia. He is not a tyrant, but a man driven mad by love and jealousy. It is his humanity that Rob emphasises rather than his insanity.


The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble's plays at Roma Street are always good. This one is no exception. The choice of play is a less accessible than those chosen for the past few years. However, they are continuing the tradition of choosing great plays that are less well known.

If you are into Shakespeare, even in a small way, then get along to Roma Street Parklands for an affordable night at the theatre. Remember, check the weather and dress warmly as August and September nights can get a little chilly.

You can read more details about the play, eating, parking and transport in this article.
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Why? Enjoying Shakespeare in the park
When: Wed-Fri 7:30 pm, Sat 2 pm (for a relaxed performance) & 7:30 pm, Sun 6 pm
Where: The Amphitheatre at Roma Street Parklands (The closest park entrance is number 6 off Wickham Terrace)
Cost: $25-30
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by Roy Chambers on 31/07/2017
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