The Winter's Tale

Previewed 17 October 2015, Opened 7 November 2015, Closed 16 January 2016 at the Garrick Theatre in London

A major revival of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale in London starring Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh presented in a 'reimagined' version by co-directors Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh - playing in repertory with Terrance Rattigan's Harlequinade.

When King Leontes of Sicilia accuses his wife of adultery, his single-minded jealousy results in the fragmentation of his family, as wife and children are lost to illness, grief and abandonment. Sixteen years pass before his daughter, lost in the pastoral haven of Bohemia, begins a journey that will heal her family's wounds. Shakespeare's rich tragicomedy is a magical testament to the follies of hasty judgement and the force of love as a means of reconciliation.

The cast features Judi Dench as 'Paulina' and Kenneth Branagh as 'Leontes'. Co-directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh with designs by Christopher Oram.

When this production opened here at the Garrick Theatre in November 2015, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph hailed this production as being a "sizzling hot-ticket," explaining that "Kenneth Branagh takes the lead as the jealousy-seized Leontes alongside the great (Dame Judi Dench), the good (Miranda Raison) and the more than promising (Jekyll and Hyde star Tom Bateman)... All the old virtues of Branagh are present and exhilaratingly correct – the clarity, intelligence, tight-lipped control too – but what we’re getting now in his middle-age (he’s 54)... is a richer, deeper capacity for vice and darkness: the ordinary man thrust into monstrous, terrifying motion." Paul Taylor in the Independent praised it as being a "sublime production" in which "Kenneth Branagh gives an extraordinarily searching portrayal of Leontes." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail highlighted that "Dame Judi is the making of the show." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench are surrounded by a first-rate team. Miranda Raison lends the wronged and persecuted Hermione a shining self-belief, Michael Pennington brings a lifetime’s Shakespearean experience to the role of the bear-pursued Antigonus and John Dagleish is a suitably nimble-fingered Autolycus. You go to see the stars and, in the words of a Sondheim song, in comes company." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote "it doesn’t get much better than this. Two Shakespeare superstars on the same stage in one of the Bard’s most extraordinary plays and a support cast to die for. Sir Kenneth Branagh proves once again that when it comes to engaging with the world’s greatest playwright there is no one to touch him... Dame Judi Dench is nothing less than a marvel... Don’t miss." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times decribed it as being a "handsome, but curiously mixed production." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said it is "a well-spoken, elegant account of one of Shakespeare’s tragicomic late romances... Kenneth Branagh shares directorial duties with Rob Ashford, and their production emphasises the almost magical powers of Hermione’s friend Paulina, who orchestrates the play’s crucial act of redemption." Ann Treneman in the Times commented that "you would think that, of all people, Kenneth Branagh would not mess up Shakespeare. You would be wrong... Branagh’s performance is mystifyingly OTT... The star of the show, without question, is Dench, who is effortless to watch. She alone appears to be natural, nuanced, sane, holding the stage whenever she’s on it, which isn’t enough."

Dame Judi Dench has appeared in numerous productions in London's West End including, most recently, John Logan's new play Peter and Alice (2013), Yukio Mishima's play Madame de Sade (2009), Noel Coward's comedy Hayfever (2006) and William Shakepeare's All's Well That Ends Well (2004). Kenneth Branagh has most recently appeared on the West End stage in Michael Grandage's staging of Tom Stoppard's new English translation of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008. His directing credits include William Shakespeare's Hamlet starring Jude Law in the title role (2009) and Hamish McColl and Sean Foley's Ducktastic! (2005).

"Kenneth Branagh's first production, superbly co-directed by him and Rob Ashford, is Shakespeare’s late romance, The Winter’s Tale, about redemption and regeneration and the miracle that is a second chance. And it reunites him – thrillingly – with Judi Dench... This is an exceptionally well-spoken production, but a luminous Judi Dench gives one of her most moving Shakespearean masterclasses... Jessie Buckley’s golden Perdita glows with health and happiness; John Dagleish is a Fagin-like cutpurse Autolycus; and the breathtaking, heart-wrenching statue scene plays out as it should, like a miracle." The Mail on Sunday

"As you would expect, Kenneth Branagh unwraps the first play of his year-long commercial residency in the West End with a flourish. The actor-manager's slightly too gorgeous and glossy Christmas hamper of a Winter's Tale, co-directed by Rob Ashford, delivers the goods in the end, though you're not always sure that it will. It can be like having glitter thrown in your eyes, and there are scenes during which you wonder whether it's all sumptuous packaging concealing an unsophisticated pud... The real gift of the evening is a pair of wondrous performances by Judi Dench, aged 80, doubling up as the noblewoman Paulina and Time itself... but this Winter's Tale isn't intolerably stirring. You can't quite go doolally for it." The Sunday Times

"Dame Judi Dench... is utterly magnificent; her unique moral authority put to brilliant effect as, even sotto voce, she silences every other actor on stage... Together with his co-director Rob Ashford and designer Christopher Oram, Sir Kenneth Branagh presents a warmhearted, visually arresting and intellectually coherent account of a notoriously fragmented play. Branagh himself plays Leontes and is excellent in the first acts, his jealousy more reflective than usual, but disappointingly actorly during the climactic reunion. Miranda Raison and Jessie Buckley excel as Hermione and Perdita and, in a uniformly splendid cast, Jimmy Yuill and Jack Colgrave Hirst stand out as the two shepherds." The Sunday Express

The Winter's Tale in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 17 October 2015, opened on 7 November 2015 and closed on 16 January 2016 - performed in repertory with Terrance Rattigan's Harlequinade.


The Winter's Tale starring Ethan Hawke 2009

Previewed 29 May 2009, Opened 9 June 2009, Closed 15 August 2009 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale in London starring Ethan Hawke and directed by Sam Mendes.

The disintegrating royal friendships and inklings of adultery of The Winter's Tale make up the second part of a double-bill with Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, presented together in repertory as part of The Bridge Project - an unprecedented three-year, transatlantic partnership uniting The Old Vic Theatre in London with The Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, and Neal Street Productions. The cast are appearing with the permission of American Equity and UK Equity.

The cast for The Winter's Tale in London features Ethan Hawke as 'Autolycus', Simon Russell Beale as 'Leontes', Sinead Cusack as 'Paulina', Richard Easton as 'Old Shepherd / Time', Josh Hamilton as 'Polixenes' and Rebecca Hall as 'Hermione'. It is directed by Sam Mendes with set designs by Anthony Ward, costume designs by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Paul Pyant, sound by Paul Arditti and music by Mark Bennett. The cast for The Winter's Tale also appear in The Cherry Orchard.

"The main American stand-out is Ethan Hawke, ebullient, sly and malicious as the conman Autolycus and, whether posing as a balladeer, a courtier or a snake-oil salesman, he's a self-enraptured master of disguise. The opening hour is riveting. That's thanks partly to Rebecca Hall, who is warm, affectionate but also magnificently defiant as the wrongly accused Hermione, but mainly to Russell Beale as her jealous husband. His Leontes gets the disgust, the frantic anger, the obsessive horror, but also the grief and pain inside the escalating paranoia." The Times

"The muddle of accents is far less of a problem than the variable quality of the individual voices. Morven Christie, who uses twanging American in one play and awful estuary English in the other, grates in both; Richard Easton and Paul Jesson, whatever their brogue, are always perfectly in tune... While Russell Beale gives a mighty and eloquent performance as the madly jealous Leontes, Josh Hamilton's unintelligible Polixenes is a charmless blank but for his expressive fingers, which trace with dreamy intimacy those of a very pregnant Hermione as the two loll on cushions on the floor. No wonder Leontes is paranoid. As the wronged Hermione, Rebecca Hall is too sloppy and modern at first, but grows much more queenly, dignified and moving with each harrowing humiliation. In the Bohemian pastoral of the second half, Ethan Hawke plays the ballad-seller and pickpocket Autolycus as a country and western dude, a crude cross between Jack Nicholson and Bob Dylan. He's amusing until he becomes wearing. Still, there are magic moments in this production: the first when the Oracle announcing the truth about Hermione is a feather quill with a life of its own; and the second when the 'sculpture' of Hermione begins to move and refuses to take the outstretched hand of the chastened and astonished Leontes." The Mail on Sunday

The Winter's Tale in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 29 May 2009, opened on 9 June 2009 and closed on 15 August 2009.