If you have ever visited St. George’s Quad at night then you probably already know it’s not a place you want to be. Isolated in that particular area there seems to be a cold that is beyond every other cold, which summons the demons normally associated with high fevers and sore throats. Granted, this may have been Anthony Botelho’s intention when he first began directing William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale—to immerse the audience in a story on all flanks.
For those unfamiliar with The Winter’s Tale, watching a rerun of Maury may give you an idea of the plot. From the play’s outset we learn that King Leontes (Louis-Alexandre Boulet) believes that his wife, Hermione (Rachel Hart), had slept with another man—Camillo, King of Bohemia (Claire Shenstone-Harris), who is also Leontes’ old friend—and is pregnant with his child. The Oracle tells Leontes that he is the father, but only after he has put his wife on trial for her life and banished his newborn daughter from his kingdom. From here the play explores a myriad of complications, including thievery, deceit, betrayal, prophecy, and what is most likely a demon, but looked more like an obese Chihuahua being pushed around on a wheelchair.
What comes to you at the play’s conclusion is nothing less than an epiphany, the importance of which is on par with Newton’s realization that some force had dropped an apple on his skull. Love and envy, Botelho’s Tale seems to teach us, are the Yin and Yang of emotional psychology: you cannot have one without the other.
Despite Leontes’ bursts of insanity, I do not think that a studious audience member would claim that the king hated his wife. Rather, it was his love for her that sparked his insanity. Since Hermione died offstage I did not feel much sympathy for her, but watching Leontes break down in a different way than he had before—emptier, less excitably—I knew that if someone did not give me a hug soon then I would break down along with him.
There were other spectacular performances, especially by Kevin Wong, who played Autolycus and may have a future as Canada’s next great satirist, and I felt that Botelho was testing the divide between the classical and the modern. Then, eerie music, which made me feel as though I was being watched, sealed the play in an envelope and shipped it off to receive a Tony.
Although the actors faced several problems as a result of performing outside—the airplane that roared above one of Leontes’ monologues, for instance—their focus did not waver. By this, I mean that the audience did not see a bunch of prestigious university students galloping about in the merciless cold. Instead, we saw a royal family bearing their mortality.