The Winter's Tale

Shakespeare's The Winter’s Tale has all the characteristics of a Tragedy, as we speedily witness the horrendous consequences of King Leontes' groundless jealousy for pregnant wife Hermione and life-long friend Polixenes. A textbook case of “confirmation bias”, every counter-argument he hears is assumed false and further justification for his actions. By the close of Act Three (where the Lyceum slips in an interval), Leontes has lost his wife and son Mamillius, abandoned newly born daughter Perdita, and been seen as an unapologetic tyrant at home and untrustworthy friend internationally. If this was Tragedy, Leontes would be dead meat.

a battle of the sexes underscored by the bold, colourful switch from Leontes’ court politics to Perdita’s music and dance festival.

But it’s not, so he isn’t. By this latter stage of his career, Shakespeare appears to have tired of simple genre expectations, keeping his source story’s 16 year gap between events in the third and fourth acts. As a result, The Winter’s Tale undergoes such a speedy tone change—from psychological tragedy into broad pastoral comedy—that you can hear the narrative’s tyres screeching. Or is that the roar from Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction?

Thankfully, this new Royal Lyceum production, directed by Max Webster, knows when to be bold. Sharp-suited John Michie may be best remembered in Scotland for starring in a dozen series of Taggart, but proves himself here an utterly believable Leontes; his jealousy is deep-rooted, subtly-played and never less than shocking in its intensity. Secondly, Webster drops in the bear motif regularly (as, for example, a child’s “onesie”, in this modern-dressed version) without it being forced; this particular “Exit, pursued by a bear” works both in the moment and within the wider context of the whole play.

Gender-flipping loyal nobleman Camillo into Camilla ensures that all the main characters initially aligned against Leontes’ male fury are female, a battle of the sexes underscored by the bold, colourful switch from Leontes’ court politics to Perdita’s music and dance festival. The odds may ultimately be stacked in the women’s favour, but it’s clear the extent to which Frances Grey’s noble Hermione and Maureen Beattie’s forthright Paulina are hurt being constrained by societal rules.

Alasdair Macrae and other cast members provide a superb live electro-Celtic score which underscores this as a Scottish Winter’s Tale; thematically, its atmosphere is matched only by the strong east coast working class brogue gifted to the lowly Shepherds of Bohemia courtesy of James Robertson’s delightfully faithful Scots translation. Importantly, we’re already familiar with “soft” Scottish accents among the “nobility”, but Robertson’s dialogue provides more than just an opportunity for pantomime-styled comedy from Jimmy Chisholm, John Stahl and Brian James O’Sullivan. It adds a cultural layer to a production that would be genuinely the poorer for its loss.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


One of Two

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Moira in Lockdown

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50

Love and Sex on the Spectrum

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

“Though I am not naturally honest, I am sometimes so by chance.”

The Lyceum returns to the Shakespearian canon with acclaimed director Max Webster (King Lear with Michael Pennington; Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare's Globe) presenting a uniquely Scottish take on this bitter-sweet masterpiece.

When King Leontes suspects his wife Hermione of adultery his jealousy tears the kingdom apart. The queen is banished and believed dead, while their daughter Perdita is abandoned among simple shepherd folk. Passionate tragedy interweaves with pastoral comedy, leading to one of Shakespeare’s most magical and moving denouements.

The cast includes Lyceum favourites Maureen Beattie (The Cherry Orchard) and Jimmy Chisolm (Thon Man Molière); and John Michie (Taggart, seen recently in Grain in the Blood at the Traverse Theatre).

This late, great play is performed by a talented company of actor musicians in a vibrant and lyrical production.

Most Popular See More


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets