The Winter's Tale/Le Conte D'Hiver

Staged at Winnipeg, Manitoba's Theatre in the Ruins

Staged at Winnipeg, Manitoba's Theatre in the Ruins

Joe Szekeres

A romantically mercurial bilingual production that is most lovely to watch

Winnipeg’s SIR (Shakespeare in the Ruins) with support from Théâtre Cercle Molière has produced a most lovely and enchanting production of one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not often produced.

I’ve often wondered why it’s not produced as much as the Bard’s other works. Yes, order ultimately is restored in the chaotic worlds of all Shakespeare’s plays; however, why is it ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is difficult to place in a specific category as a Shakespearean comedy, drama, and tragedy when there are examples of each in the text?

In any event, I didn’t care in what category to place it as there is so much to like about this select presentation of ‘The Winter’s Tale’. It remains visually fetching for the one hour forty-five-minute production. It was filmed on location on the picturesque grounds of The Trappist Monastery Ruins Heritage Park in St. Norbert, Manitoba, and I would like to wander those very grounds one day soon.

Additionally, Maureen Petkau’s exquisite costume designs are colourful. What I also loved about the production was the bilingual element which gave me the opportunity to use my conversational French. This was my first live theatre production of a bilingual Shakespearean play. There’s no need to be concerned if you don’t understand French as the Close Captioned (CC) tab on my computer enabled me to read quickly what I couldn’t understand.

I loved the opening because it literally began as a story book introduction with the famous English and French lines “Once upon a time/Il était une fois”. Combine this with Brittany Hunter’s pleasing choreography and Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner premium musical composition reminiscent of the era which became so very enchanting, and I was hooked immediately.

We enter a castle in Sicily where there is a celebration of dancing and singing where the King of Sicily, Leontes (Gabriel Daniels) and his old friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Simon Miron) are in attendance. Polixenes is anxiously set to return home after a six month visit in Sicily. Leontes’ pregnant wife, Hermione (Ava Darrach-Gagnon) persuades the Bohemian King to continue his visit which leads Leontes to obsess over a belief his wife is having an affair with Polixenes. Leontes arranges to have Polixenes poisoned in having courtier Camilla (Jane Testar) commit the act. Camilla does not want to follow through and warns Polixenes of what is about to occur.

Along with this central plot line, we are also introduced to the children of both Kings – son of Polixenes, Florizel (Omar Samuels) and Perdita (Kristian Cahatol), daughter of Leontes. Both children fall in love with each other unbeknown to their fathers’ awareness of the situation.

Without giving away too much of the plot, there are comic, dramatic and tragic moments. I studied this play in my undergraduate years and I seemed to recall one of the most striking stage directions ever written: “Exit pursued by a bear”. This moment was handled satisfyingly without disturbing the central plot.

Co-directors Michelle Boulet and Sarah Constible’s elegant vision of a story of love, redemption and magic remain the perfect antidotes we all need right now as we emerge from seventeen months of pandemic. Their genteel and polished direction of a top selected cast of artists make this ‘Winter’s Tale’ joyful entertainment as the characters move from the world of the court to the whimsical nature of the forest and preparation for the sheep shearing festival.

Gabriel Daniels’ Leontes becomes icy, snappy, and unfeeling especially when he thinks he ‘understands’ what has motivated his wife, Hermione, to have an affair. As Polixenes, Simon Miron’s compassionate and gentle nature ably restores the audience’s belief and faith that order can be restored in a world of chaos.

Supporting characters are also memorable. Ava Darrach-Gagnon’s Hermione believably made me side with her as she pleads her innocence of her husband’s over-bearing and obsessive behaviour. Kristian Cahatol’s Perdita and Omar Samuels’ Florizel endearingly charmed me as I rooted for them and their blossoming love for each other. Jane Testar’s Camilla becomes the reminder of that one person in all our lives whom we hope will always root for us no matter what obstacles are thrown in their path in seeking righteousness and justice. As lady in waiting to Hermione, Andrea Del Campo remains fierce and fiery as Paulina in her belief of her mistress’s virtue against Leontes’ unfair accusations.

Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner is a delightful rapscallion of an Autolycus. As the just Antigonus who knows he is doing the right thing after events have played out between Polixenes and Leontes, Tom Keenan takes the baby for a better life before his most noteworthy scene pursued by the bear. Tobias Hughes’ Clown offers some much-needed humour in a story of human trickery and personal deception.

Final Comments: Every time I hear the title of this play, I think of the coming of winter and how it can get frigidly frosty resplendent with ice and snowstorms that can last hours.

Luckily, Shakespeare in the Ruins and Théâtre Cercle Molière’s ‘Winter’s Tale’ reminds us all how much we are craving and yearning to see and hear a good story again.

This ‘Winter’s Tale’ is that good story we all need right now.
‘The Winter’s Tale’ streams to August 8.

Running Time approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Still taken from Shakespeare in the Ruins website: www.shakespeareintheruins.com.

To purchase tickets and more information, please visit www.shakespeareintheruins.com.

‘The Winter’s Tale’/ ‘Le Conte d’Hiver’ by William Shakespeare
Production made possible with support from Théâtre Cercle Molière

Directed by Michelle Boulet and Sarah Constible
Performers: Gabriel Daniels, Kristian Cahatol, Ava Darrach-Gagnon, Andrea Del Campo, Tobias Hughes, Tom Keenan, Simon Miron, Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner, Omar Samuels, Jane Testar.

PRODUCTION TEAM:
Steven Vande Vyvere / Production Manager/Direction du production
Cari Simpson / Technical Director/Direction technique
Michael Duggan / Stage Manager/Régie de plateau
Katie Robinson Hoppa / Assistant Stage Manager/Régie générale
Katie Schmidt / Set & Props Coordinator/Coordination du décor et accessoires
Heather Lee Brereton / Wardrobe Coordinator/Coordination des costumes
Evelyn Rice / Hair/Coiffures
Christian Hadley / Scenic Carpenter/Menuiserie de décor
Ray Peterson / Bear Claw Technician/Technique de la griffe d’ours
Ali Fulmyk / COVID Officer/Agent de COVID

ARTISTIC TEAM:
Michelle Boulet & Sarah Constible / Directors/mise en scène
Anna-Laure Koop / Assistant Director/assistance à la mise en scène
Michelle Boulet & Anna-Laure Koop / Adaptation
Maureen Petkau / Costume Designer/Conception de costumes
Shauna Jones / Set & Props Designer/Conception du décor et accessoires
Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner / Composer/Compositeur
Brittany Hunter / Choreographer/Chorégraphe
Robert Borges / Fight Director/Direction des combates
Tom Soares / Text Coach/Coaching en lecture du texte

FILM CREW:
Sarah Constible / Camera Operators/Opération des camèras
Leif Norman
Kristen Sawatzky
Chris Coyne / Audio Mixer/Prise de son
Michelle Boulet & Sarah Constible / Editors/Montage
Modern Plate Catering / Caterer/Pourvoyer

Abstract Building
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