The Winter's Tale
East Quadrangle, University of Glasgow, Until Sun 22 Jun
Back in the day, going to see a show meant turning up at your village green or hostelry garden. Things have moved on since the 1500s, and there’s much to be said for modern theatres with their velvet upholstery, carpets and – a roof.
Sitting in the grounds of Edinburgh’s Hopetoun House, being intermittently soaked by rain or devoured by midges, I’ll confess to wishing for a proscenium arch and comfy seat. But only briefly. The rest of the time, the open air experience brings far more pros than cons. Performed on a small stage and catwalk, The Winter’s Tale is the latest touring production from London’s Globe Theatre.
Visiting outdoor locations across Britain, they aim to recreate the magic generated by Shakespeare and his pals. We can only guess at the standard of acting back then, given the dearth of drama schools available to 16th century thesps, but today’s Globe actors are superb. Sitting so close to such anguish and well-crafted wit makes the sodden clothes and insect bites worthwhile.
It seems wrong to single out players from such a strong cast, but Glasgow’s John Dougall needs special mention. Switching from the jealous King Leontes to the humble shepherd, he inhabits both men with astute authenticity. So too Michael Benz, who, in true Shakespearean style, plays both male and female characters with humour and gravitas. For sheer enjoyment of his devious merriment, however, Fergal McElherron steals the show.