A real Winter’s Tale
MRU and the Shakespeare Company team up for The Winter’s Tale
Directed by Natascha Girgis, a graduate of the Mount Royal theatre program, the Shakespeare Company and Mount Royal University have teamed up to present The Winter’s Tale. With a cast that includes a selection of the last students set to graduate from the program, the show’s run began Feb. 5 at the Nickel Theatre.
Girgis has so far experienced much success after graduating from the theatre program. With a long list of acting and directoral credits — including six seasons with Shakespeare in the Park — Girgis is proof of the immense talent to come out of Mount Royal University’s theatre program.
“I started my career as an actor after graduating from the Mount Royal Fine Arts program,” said Girgis in a blog post on the Shakespeare Company’s website. “And have spent the past 23 years working across Canada. I now return to my Alma Mater to direct the last students, ever, to graduate from the program.
“I consider it a tremendous privilege to be here at its end, a full circle of sorts, and to share this experience with the next generation. Their journey is just beginning.”
For those unfamiliar, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale tells the story of Leontes — King of Sicily — who puts his wife, Hermione, on trial after suspecting that she is having an affair with Polixenes — King of Bohemia and childhood friend to Leontes.
In his anger, Leontes declares the baby that Hermione is carrying is illegitimate. Antigonas, loyal friend of Hermione, abandons the baby on the coast of Bohemia after Leontes condemns her to death. Meanwhile, Leontes consults the Oracle of Delphi for the truth about his wife’s infidelity, but disregards its reading when it says that Hermione is innocent. He then pays the price for disrespecting the Oracle.
If the opening performance is any indication, this production is sure to be a hit. Running only 120 minutes (compared to a usual 4-hour Shakespeare production), a lot of the play has been trimmed down. The set is also quite minimal, with only a small set-up in center-stage to create levels within the performance, and delicate organza hanging from the rafters in the second half. This created a backdrop that relies almost entirely on lighting to set the stage for each scene. As a result much is left to the imagination of the audience — including the infamous bear that appears in the stage directions and has puzzled many directors of the play. But the production lacks nothing for the absence of an intricate stage design.
The mix of experienced and student performers did much to add to the vibrancy of the production; chemistry between cast members — student and veteran performer — is more than evident. Even for those audience members who perhaps are not familiar with The Winter’s Tale, or who may not be die-hard fans of the infamous bard, this production is lively and entertaining, and left the audience laughing on many occasions.
Now months since the news of the suspension of the Theatre Arts Diploma — among many others — from Mount Royal, Girgis and the rest of the cast met every challenge of this particular production beautifully, and made for a truly enjoyable performance — which just goes to show the huge talent that Mount Royal University will lose with the end of the Theatre Arts Diploma.
The show will run until Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. with matinee performances on select days as well. Tickets are $25 for students.