Ending the patriarchy often seems like a looming and impossible task. However, where politics and policies fail us, art will always ring true. There seems to be unapologetic feminism in the air that is ripping Shakespeare from his storytelling pedestal. We have seen it from modem adaptations of his greats like Summer Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to the blatant dismissal of Stockholm syndrome love with Gillian English’s 10 Things I Hate About Taming of the Shrew. This Long Winter joins these other fabulous productions by reinstating a HERstory into Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. We follow Hermione (Erina Daniels) as she searches for her lost daughter, Perdita (Huia Haupapa), after a successful set up by her loyal friend Paulina (Jean Sergent). As she travels, she observes many other atrocities by men from other plays. Such plays include Romeo and Juliet, All’s Well That Ends Well, Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, and briefly A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
There was another cruel moment for Hermione when she thought she may have found Perdita as Titania and Oberon argue over a child. The fairy royalty remain off stage, only hearing their voices, joined by other members of the cast which beautifully created eerie, fae/demonic voices that gave me a sense of two very powerful entities fighting over this child. Michael Trigg accentuated this moment wonderfully, using harsh pink and green on the back wall. When the gender is revealed, Hermione visibly shrinks into herself, and has to will herself to continue. Her quiet strength remains her regal power, especially when she stands up to her husband after sixteen years of him believing her to be dead, and she refuses his advances. “Leave me alone.” Yes, queen, go to a spa resort, you deserve it.
Alice May Connolly as Emilia, Hermione’s reluctant companion, played the annoying, petulant, self-centred teenager but maintain the audience sympathies excellently. Later in the play when we see her again as a grown woman, wife and mother, there are still recognisable streaks of her playful teenage self. And Sergent as Paulina is a match made in heaven, as she is essentially a real-life version of the badass Paulina, talking in any way she pleases (as women should) and deathly loyal by orchestrating Hermione’s escape. Perdita is a bright (as seen by her yellow long-sleeved top) light for Hermione, but she still needs to be a well-rounded character. While Haupapa stuck to the script, I found little emotional range behind her words. Meanwhile, I’m completely taken by her love interest, Florizel (Andrew Ford), who looked like a young James Potter, and it is definitely because he represents the feminist change we want to see in the men of today. Let us repeat again, all together now people: men who actively listen to women and are empathetic are SEXY AF.
Trigg’s production choices were on fleek in Random Stage. The set had tennis court fence wiring down the sides of the back wall, calling to attention the apparent freedom and the restricting institutional systems in which these women live. The backstage doors in the corners were hidden by makeshift, semi-reflective, scuffed metal wings. The top trapdoor was used as a balcony for Carrie Green to sing beautifully from, with the same fence netting surrounding it, reminding me of a songbird in a cage and in turn Maya Angelou’s poem. Isaac Thomas and Charlotte Forrester beautifully accompany Green’s voice via the guitar and cello, occasionally adding their own voices to create beautifully familiar yet original harmonies, echoing phrases from the script. The three of them gave me hints of the three witches from Macbeth, or fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, their bewitching magic in their voices and instruments. The costuming is ahistorical, starting off typically Shakespearean, but blending from other time periods as well, such as 1950s black leather jackets, Victorian ruff collars, seventies mini-skirts, 1920s swing dresses, to modern day dungarees and Doc Martens. This reminds and reinforces that these stories are (unfortunately) timeless, these vicious cruelties are not isolated to the Shakespearean era alone. The lighting was simple with mostly blue-green lights washing the stage, occasionally calling attention to certain moments by using harsh bright lights such as pink, green, and red (for Leontes, the prick).
The ending of this otherwise wonderful play felt rushed. Perdita assures Hermione that things will be different for her with the dreamy Florizel, and that we must forgive the men for their wrongdoings and move forward together. As far as millennial voices go, she’s right, but Hermione has been through such a tumultuous ninety minutes, I feel she and Paulina will need ninety more minutes in order to come to a natural emotional end. Hermione even says “I have a right to be angry.” Damn straight she does. Perhaps Sarah Delahunty has another play brewing where Hermione is able to forgive Leontes while watching Perdita thrive as the heir to their throne.
This Long Winter successfully calls to attention the atrocities of these Shakespearean plays in their treatment of their women characters and gives a fresh voice, reflective of the world we hope to live in. Preferably tomorrow.
You have until the 20th of April to see this amazing ensemble cast do their thang. Check out the BATS website for more details.