Warning: unabashed praise and Dame Judi love ahead.
My local Lido cinemas have an awesome program, which, last weekend included. A live recording of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. Produced by Kenneth Branagh’s theatre company, it is the opening show of the year long residence of the KBTC at the Garrick Theatre in London. It’s so exciting to have the opportunity to watch some of the finest dramatic performers of our generation in action, and I can only applaud Lido for bringing it to us. The cinema was PACKED, although my friend and were the only ones present who are yet to join the blue rinse bregade (we are 70 years old in or hearts and that’s what counts).
For those unfamiliar with A Winters Tale, it is one of Shakespeare’s lesser performed works. It is a sort of Othello-esque tale with a part B: redemption.
Kenneth Branagh plays Leontes a king driven so mad by unfounded jealousy he sentences his wife and unborn child to death. In the second half after sixteen years of penance he is finally reunited with his lost loved ones. Kenneth Branagh has always brought a majesty and power to shakespeare that I have loved since I watched him in Hamlet as a teenager and it serves him well here. Leontes has a dramatic journey to make from loving husband to obsessed jailer, then finally back to redeemed soul worthy of a daughter and wife yet again. Somehow Branagh makes it possible that the audience and his wife and child could forgive his horrible past misdeeds.
The real star of the piece however is Dame Judi Dench. To me she is like an elf or a phantasm, every performance she does seems somehow out of the steam of time, yet simultaneously so grounded and real it leaves me breathless. She’s uses that power to great effect here in her role as Paulina making the Shakespearean text seem as effortless as breathing.
DAME JUDI 4 EVA
The rest of the cast do a wonderful job also, inhabiting their roles with full conviction. I can only watch with green eyed jealousy and wish that one day I could share a stage with two such awe inspiring presences as those veterans of the industry.