The Winter’s Tale follows the dramatic consequences of Leontes’ capricious suspicion of the close relationship between his pregnant wife, Hermione, and his friend the king, Polixenes. Despite their apparent innocence, Leontes is blinded by his pride and imprisons his wife and forces Polixenes to flee. When his daughter, Perdita, is born, Leontes is convinced of her illegitimacy and banishes the new-born. The severe costs of his actions are relentless and swift, and with broken families scattered across kingdoms, a tangle of love, disguises and mistaken identities, will Perdita be reunited with her father, and will Leontes ever be redeemed?
This is a play full of interesting and unique moments such as violent storms, the coming-to-life of a statue, and theatre’s most famous and problematic stage direction: ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’. Each new production anticipates fresh takes on these themes, and with Branagh and multi award-winning director Rob Ashford at the helm, this collaboration will not disappoint. That The Winter’s Tale plays at the Garrick Theatre seems particularly apt and serendipitous, seeing as the play owes much of its current success to David Garrick, who in 1754 brought the play to life for contemporary audiences after it had lain forgotten for years; a feat which the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company will be keen to replicate.
With this play Branagh and Dench appear together on the stage for the first time in over 20 years, and both have developed reputations as actors of the highest calibre. The Winter’s Tale will open on 17th October 2015 at the Garrick Theatre and play until 16th January 2016.