The Unit 102 Theatre at Queen and Dufferin is an interesting space. It is a black box theatre, with the audience on two sides meeting at the downstage right corner, which also functions as an entrance and exit for the actors. It’s small so it can make for a very intimate theatre experience. The main issue with the space, however, is how stuffy it is. In an attempt to minimize this during Leroy Street Theatre’s current production of The Winter’s Tale, there is a fan perched near the lighting box to keep the air moving; but this created a new kind of problem: I couldn’t hear the actors.
I’m not normally a stickler for classical training, but one thing that does come with it is a real mastery of one’s vocal control and projection. Another choice that aggravated the problem was that several speeches in the play were blocked with the actors facing upstage. Hermione’s speech, for example, was given upstage to Leontes, and between not being able to see her face, and barely being able to hear her, the power of the scene was lost on me. I imagine that perhaps some of the thinking behind this was for the audience to see Leontes’ reaction, but that’s not much good if we can’t hear what he’s reacting to. Halfway through the show I moved to the front row, where I could see and hear better.
There were also great directorial choices. The show itself has been adapted by director Lauren Horejda as well as Harrison Thomas, adding a narrator in the form of a woman telling the story to her two younger siblings. The point is to bring out the larger theme of storytelling, while also allowing them to cut significant portions of the play in favour of a tighter narrative. The addition of a metanarrative in the form of the brother and sister being told a story helped to move the play along without losing the audience. Nico Combitsis was very good as a wily and goofy Autolycus, and Zach Parkhurst, Shalyn McFaul, and John Fleming were excellent in their comedic interactions during the festivities for Perdita. In particular though, my favourite by far was Sarah Naomi Campbell as Paulina. Her emotional range during the show was fantastic, and her strength as a key but supporting character was both steady and impressive.
Overall this was a decent production with some technical drawbacks balanced out by depth of some acting and surprising comedy.
The Winter’s Tale plays until Sept 26th at Unit 102 Theatre. Click Here for tickets.