The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0428  Monday, 22 October 2012


From:        Sylvia Morris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 20, 2012 12:34:16 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Query Winter’s Tale


In response to Roger Appelbaum’s query about The Winter’s Tale at the Courtyard Theatre in 2009, as I was heading in to the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive today anyway I took a look at the prompt book and reviews.


At the end of the oracle scene, Act 3, Sc 2, following Leontes’ final words “Come and lead me to these sorrows”, there is a whole page of written instructions. The page describes a series of lighting and sound cues “sound of creaking”, and an instruction “brake off”, presumably to allow the cases to move. The bookcases seem to have met centre-stage before “crashing”. A “winter tree” was brought in to stand behind the fallen bookshelves (visible during Act 3 Sc 3). Other instructions include “painting tilts” and “chandelier falls”.  There were several warnings to staff to ensure Leontes (Greg Hicks) was well clear of danger.


Based on my own memory and the reviews, this is what happened:

The two large bookcases that dominated the upstage area (set at an angle, allowing a space between them, and upstage of the thrust) toppled, throwing all the hardbound volumes onto the stage where they remained for the Antigonus scene before the interval. The bear was made of paper and the library shelves were transformed “into the jagged cliffs of the Bohemian coast”. After the interval the book metaphor continued “The Bohemian rustics sit among collapsed piles of books from the formerly imposing shelves of Leontes’ elegant court”. The mummers wore paper and “the trees . . . sprout paper leaves”.


This moment and the repeated book motif were extremely memorable though I was not sure why it continued in Bohemia. One of the reviewers suggested the book destruction was a “metaphor for chaos”. The destruction did not happen until the very end of the scene when Leontes was alone on stage, linking it more with his deranged state of mind than with the challenging of the Oracle (though from the point of view of practicality it would not have been possible to put this into effect until the stage was pretty clear).


The 9/11 parallel didn’t occur to me, and I have found no mention of it in any review though as this production was later staged in New York it may have had such resonance there.


I hope this helps!


Best wishes

Sylvia Morris

(ex-Head of Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive)

Twitter: @sylvmorris1

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