(Alfred Hickling’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/26.)

The wildly disparate halves of The Winter’s Tale conclude with two of the most notoriously implausible stage directions in the canon: “Exit, pursued by a bear” and “Hermione comes down” – signifying that the character who has been standing like a statue throughout the scene should come to life. It’s almost as if Shakespeare, in his last single-handed work, decided to issue the ultimate challenge to an audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief.

David Thacker has been grappling with the problem of The Winter’s Tale for most of his professional career. He first directed it as a student and returned to the piece 16 years later – the passage of time that elapses throughout the drama – during his tenure as artistic director of the Young Vic. Now his production asemeritus director of the Octagon appears to be the summation of a lifetime’s contemplation of the play’s theme of loss and reconciliation.

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 Photograph: Ian Tilton


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