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Review: Faction Theatre's Richard III, New Diorama

A few thoughts on Kenneth Branagh's weepy The Winter's Tale via encore screening

Tom Bateman and Jessie Buckley in The Winter's Tale, Garrick Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

I'm told by my friends on social media that this doesn't technically count as my first theatre trip of 2016 but that doesn't mean I can't write a bit about it as I won't get a chance to see it live at the Garrick Theatre before it finishes on January 16. Seeing it on a cinema screen is a good substitute and while you don't get the thrill of seeing the live performance you do get to appreciate the performances close up.

So what was it like? Well, I've always been a bit 'meh' about The Winter's Tale mainly because it feels, tonally, like two very different plays separated by an interval. Kenneth Branagh's production doesn't quite manage to erase that feeling but it did something other productions haven't, it made me cry. Several times.

Dame Judi Dench's Paulina, defender of the innocent Queen, Miranda Raison's Hermione, the innocent victim of her husband's personal misjudgement and Jessie Buckley's Perdita, who is divided from her lover, were such touching performances. I've never been quite so consistently moved by Shakespeare.

I've seen funnier productions - although perhaps the smallish cinema audience on a Sunday morning didn't help - but this certainly tugged on my heartstrings. It was also great to see Theatre Hottie Tom Bateman (moustache notwithstanding) and there was great chemistry between him and Jessie Buckley as the two lovers which probably helped provoke the tears when things started going wrong for them.

There is one teeny thing which is probably just me but I am starting to have problems with Kenneth Branagh. It's his production company and he co-directs and plays Leonates.  When he's on stage I can't help thinking of his multiples roles and that Dennis Waterman impression that David Walliams used to do 'so I'm going to star in it, write the theme tune, sing the theme tune...'. In my mind, he becomes a parody of himself. It is just me, I'm sure.

Otherwise, it's a very slick production, as you would expect, with nice use of video particularly for that stage direction and if you can get a ticket it is worth a look but if not, I'm sure there will be another encore screening coming up soon.