The Winter's Tale, presented by Propeller at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, 31 January - 4 February 2012, and on tour.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

 Hopkins, Lisa.  "Review of The Winter's Tale, presented by Propeller at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, 31 January - 4 February 2012, and on tour." EMLS 16.2 (2012): 11. URL:


With: Robert Hands (Leontes), Richard Dempsey (Hermione and Dorcas), Ben Allen (Mamillius and Perdita), Nicholas Asbury (Polixenes), Chris Myles (Camillo), Dugald Bruce-Lockhart (Antigonus), Dominic Thorburn (Lord), Tony Bell (Lord and Autolycus), Gunnar Cauthery (Emilia and Mopsa), Gary Shelford (Lady), Vince Leigh (Paulina), John Dougall (Dion and Old Shepherd), Finn Hanlon (Mariner and Florizel), and Karl Davies (Young Shepherd).


  1. I walked three miles through snow to see this production, and it was abundantly worth it.  Unusually for Propeller, the first half opened quietly, with Robert Hands' Leontes (last seen as Adriana in last year's Comedy of Errors) building slowly but steadily to an absolute conviction that he is right and everyone else is wrong.  In his self-imposed isolation the only voice that could reach him was that of the pyjama-clad Mamillius, who was an onlooker in virtually every scene and visibly became more and more introverted and distressed; he was certainly utterly impervious to Richard Dempsey's magnificent Hermione, harrowingly haled on to defend herself in a smock soiled with the blood of childbirth, or to Vince Leigh's imposing, trouser-suited Paulina.

  2. After the interval this terrifying isolation was wholly swept away by the glorious commonality of the pastoral scenes, and the production burst into joyous and anarchic life at a Glastonbury-style festival which opened with a set by the Bleatles, human sheep resplendent in Aran jumpers and sporting heart-shaped sunglasses and swishing tails.  It got even funnier when they were joined by the rest of the cast, similarly clad and on their hands and knees, to make up a comic chorus of sheep, who pointed the clown's speech with a series of judicious 'mehs' until Autolycus scared them away by bellowing 'Mint sauce!'.  Also worthy of note was Richard Dempsey's hilarious Dorcas, the other side of the coin to his Hermione in the first half.  It made for utterly blissful comedy, ably supported by Tony Bell's manically inventive and genuinely funny Autolycus.  The whole was capped by Polixenes' and Camillo's entrance disguised as a boy scout and a girl guide respectively, prompting a respectful chorus of 'Ging Gang Goolie'.

  3. The tone inevitably sobered up with the return to Sicily and a Leontes now in a wheelchair, but the production still had some surprises to spring.  Newspaper reviewers were reticent about these so as not to spoil the effect, but since this review will appear retrospectively, here goes: Paulina first directed the attention of the onstage audience to a niche in the wings which we in the auditorium could not see, before we suddenly become aware that Hermione was actually standing amongst the courtiers, who swung round in astonishment as they realised the presence of the 'statue' in their midst.  Then, at the very end of the play, the lights grew dim and Perdita stepped to one side before returning as Mamillius, still in his pyjamas and still clutching his bear, but now blowing out a candle and shaking his head to show that not all that has been lost can be restored.  This rich, splendid and many-faceted production had, though, already given us more than enough.




Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editors at

© 2012-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).