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The Winter's Tale - A thinking person's version of this year's Champions League final?

Review by Oli Burley

SUCH is football’s grip on my battered psyche, that even watching The Winter’s Tale at the Globe reminded me of the once-beautiful game.

Sitting on the terraces, I was swept along by the gripping action of John Dove’s production but even more so by the emotion it fosters.

Half deflating, half make-believe with a swift, startling finale, The Winter’s Tale is a thinking person’s version of this year’s Champions League final.

So, if you find Shakespearean language more potent than a pass and long to escape for a few hours into Elizabethan erudition, then this is for you.

It is also the original practices production the Globe’s Season of the World and the Underworld has been crying out for.

The play swaggers into life in Sicilia, where King Leontes (Paul Jesson) proves as unbalanced as the structure of the work that depicts him.

Convinced his wife Hermione (Yolanda Vazquez) and King Polixenes of Bohemia (Peter Forbes) are lovers, Leontes flies into a jealous, unruly rage.

The intensity is cranked up by Paulina (Penelope Beaumont), whose utter belief at her King’s insanity eclipses any of the fervour that has gone before.

But just as she threatens to steal the show, the work suddenly shifts gear as a bear’s arm appears and drags her husband, Antigonus, to his death.

Absurd as it looks on stage, the killing captures the fantastic mood of the second-half of the play – which takes place 16 years later – uncannily well.

Preying on simple shepherds, Colin Hurley makes a devilish Autolycus whose roguish antics are gobbled up by groundlings hungry for humour.

In some ways his presence overshadows Perdita (Juliet Rylance) and Florizel (David Sturzaker), the play’s engaging love interest, but that is no bad thing.

For above all, the happy-ever-ending does not belong to them but Hermione, who believed dead, returns with sufficient simplicity to cap the audience’s incredulity.

I guess I’ll never know what the guy in the Liverpool shirt in the lower tier made of it all, but I’ll wager that he will be back next season.

Buy tickets now!

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