There’s some ill planet reigns: I must be patient till the heavens look/ With an aspect more favourable."
THEATRE PREVIEWClick to Expand
The Winter’s Tale
Produced by Shakespeare in the Ruins and Théâtre Cercle Molière
• Streaming July 30 to Aug. 8
• Tickets $25 at www.showtix4u.com
So says the queen Hermione upon being wrongfully accused of adultery and banished by her jealous husband Leontes in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
Patience proved to be an operating principle for this long-delayed project, which was announced back in December 2019 by Shakespeare in the Ruins’ artistic director Rodrigo Beilfuss as the annual 2020 promenade production. It was to have been performed last year in both French and English at Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park as a co-production with the French-language company Théâtre Cercle Molière.
COVID-19 intervened, of course, forcing SiR’s first ever production of the play to be delayed a full year, only to see it packaged for streaming as of Friday.
The film version was co-directed by Michelle Boulet, SiR’s former artistic director, and company vet Sarah Constible, who spoke to the Free Press via Zoom from Boulet’s farm home in St. Andrews.
"It really pivoted to film late in the game," says Boulet, who had planned for the production to be performed outdoors live for a limited audience of around 25 socially distanced theatregoers per performance.
"We were just going to film the run (for a remote audience) and that proved to be impossible," Boulet says, adding the four-week rehearsal period allowed for a quick shoot over just five days.
"We were doing 30 pages a day, which is a bit much for film," Boulet says.
"Thirty pages a day is daunting," agrees Constible, adding that the seasonal promise of the title will have to be left to the audience’s imagination. "It was extremely hot. The ruins can act like a pizza oven in there.
"There were all kinds of challenges, but at the same time, we had 10 people that were able to act together onstage and for that very reason, I found myself getting quite emotional because I realized: How long has it been since we saw people dance or hold hands? All of that got quite immediate and very, very real for the actors.
"It really does embrace the SiR experience, in that we’ll throw it against the wall and see what sticks," Constible adds. "In that, I call it a win."
A film version has an unintended advantage from the planned stage version, in that subtitles will be available for audiences. When he announced the play, Beilfuss said the bilingual production would reflect the differences between the settings: the two kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia, with the Sicilians speaking English and the Bohemians speaking French.
Beilfuss said the play could be enjoyed like an opera: "You can go to opera and you don’t fully understand literally what’s happening, but you get what’s happening on an emotional level through performance and through the embodiment of the performers."
Boulet says francophone assistant director Anna-Laure Koop helped translate the production so that it can be understood in either language.
"It was a challenge for the actors, because they’re speaking French, but they’re speaking Shakespeare French," says Boulet. "So a lot of the tenses were tricky.
"So even if (the actors) were bilingual, there was this huge learning curve for them. And when it came to editing, Anna-Laure wasn’t in the room with us, so it was us very much following the script, trying to make sure the way we edited it made sense in French.
"We always tout that Shakespeare can be understood by anybody. So if Shakespeare can be understood by your action, visually, what the actors are doing should tell you what’s going on. And the same should hold true for French.
"So we got let off the hook a little bit now that it’s a film and there is going to be closed captions."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.