“The Winter’s Tale” à la Donnellan

Irish director Declan Donellan met his scenographer Nick Ormerod at Cambridge. He is permanent resident at eh Barbican

Irish director Declan Donellan met his scenographer Nick Ormerod at Cambridge. He is a permanent resident at the Barbican

Going to Théâtre des Gémeaux in Sceaux, a family friendly suburb south of Paris, is always a matter of utter excitement. The friend who invited me, was just as intense. We left early for an 8.45 pm show, and found ourselves perfectly on time for a bohemian buffet dinner at the theatre. A very nice and pretty waitress, who had obviously never carried a plate in her life, let alone listened to a food order, made us immediately happy with her beautiful smile. How soothing to let things happen in a disorganised way. We managed to kidnap a table and two chairs and very soon, two old friends showed up, Patrick and his delightful daughter Marianne, who studies acting. The draw of the evening was Declan Donnellan’s new staging of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale”.

Extraordinary Leonte, Orlando James, ©Johan Persson

An extraordinary Leonte, Orlando James goes crazy  ©Johan Persson

I am not a Shakespeare aficionado because I always tend to fall asleep, but this play is partly a comedy. Recently at Comédie Francaise, Eric Ruf’s direction of “Romeo and Juliet” gave me great pleasure and last night the performance at Théâtre des Gémeaux, enchanted me.

First, Donnellan’s company, « Cheek by Jowl », founded in 1981 with Nick Ormerod,  acts in English (with French subtitles thank God). So I smiled to myself and thought how confortable it was to be watching the nec plus ultra of Shakespeare plays, fourty minutes from Paris and to understand every word.

I am a Donnellan fan and have seen his plays, “Cymbeline”, “Troilus and Cressida”, “Boris Godunov” in English and in Russian, in Sceaux for ten years. This time I was again not disappointed. The opening scene with Leonte (Orlando James) King of Sicily in jeans, and his pregnant wife Hermione (Natalie Radmall-Quirke), in a very sexy grey dress, is already riveting. The paranoiac king decides to kill his wife whom he suspects had an affair with his best friend, Polixene, King of Bohemia.  The play is mad and sometimes, one feels there is a chapter missing…but with the help of the Delphi Oracle and many Gods, all ends well and the charming young couple Perdita (who dresses in high heels like the Duchess of Cambridge) and Florizel can fulfill their love. The costumes are absolutely beautiful and the movements are fantastically choreographed.

Eleanor McLouglin plays a wonderful Perdita

Eleanor McLouglin plays a wonderful Perdita,©Johan Persson

The discovery of the baby girl by the old shepherd is a moment of pure beauty. There is a fabulous  rock and roll bard, Autolycus, and many fights, both father and son have tantrums, the energy is high and the language is at its clearest and most beautiful.

On the way back we raced with Louis Schweitzer, former CEO of Renault, and president of the Avignon festival, who drives a very old and scratched black Clio. He is a theater fan and it was a good symbol of the evening : no “showing off” at Sceaux, only the best talents and the most avid spectators make the effort to go.

The simple decor resides mostly in the big white cube in the back which becomes a boat, a tomb, a house, a trunk full of surprises

The simple decor resides mostly in a big white cube which becomes a boat, a tomb, a house, a trunk full of surprises

Until January 31, Res: 01 46 61 36 67 (2h45 mns, and it’s ok to sleep a bit at times)

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