Branagh brings winter wonder to Spalding

Sir Kenneth Branagh in A Winter's Tale. ANL-150112-172107001
Sir Kenneth Branagh in A Winter's Tale. ANL-150112-172107001

Shakespeare’s happy ending came exactly where it should in A Winter’s Tale, even though many in the audience at the South Holland Centre in Spalding were not quite sure what had happened.

This was the first live screening of a series of plays presented by actor manager Sir Kenneth Branagh for a one-year season in the beautifully restored Garrick Theatre.

The Winter’s Tale, co-directed by him and Rob Ashford, sees jealous passions rise and had the audience in tears at the end when forgiveness finally came. It begins with a sparkling Christmas scene in King Leontes’s palace, where there is a huge tree, carollers and family and friends watching a cinefilm of Leontes and his best and oldest friend, Polixines, playing together as children. Leontes (Branagh) gets it into his head that his blameless wife Hermione (Miranda Raison) is having an affair with Polixines. He becomes like a man possessed but when his wife and his son die, he cannot forgive them or himself.

Judi Dench gives a dramatic performance as Paulina and Time, the healer. After erotic scenes in Bohemia, the statue scene leaves the audience wondering Hermione is alive, or if it’s a Christmas miracle.