Review: The Winter’s Tale – Theatre in the Forest

There’s something special about a performance in the open air, be it a concert, a movie or a play. Perhaps that’s why Red Rose Chain’s Theatre in the Forest is so popular. 

However more llikely it is down to the fact that Red Rose Chain under the directorship of Joanna Carrick always manage to elevate anything that they lay their hands on.

Theatre in the Forest has become very much a staple of Suffolk Summers, moving over the years to various locations including Rendlesham, Jimmy’s Farm and now at the National Trust’s Sutton Hoo site on the outskirts of Woodbridge.

The productions are always of Shakespeare’s classics, tales that have been told countless times over the centuries. You’d therefore be forgiven for thinking that nothing new can be added to such stories, that no one could take the Bard’s plays and put a new twist to them, if that is your view then you clearly haven’t seen a Red Rose production.

Carrick has a knack of always getting something new from these tales, while always sticking to the original story and original  text she can always come up with new ways of  telling the tale. It is this highly inventive directorship that sets The Red Rose Chain’s Theatre in the Forest apart from other Shakespearean productions. 

Over the years we have seen the inclusion of cars, bikes and last year giant puppets, but all the time keeping true to the words that have been spoken hundreds of times by various  companies around the world.

This year’s production is The Winter’s Tale, King Leontes falsely accuses his wife Hermione of infidelity with his best friend, and she dies. Leontes exiles his newborn daughter Perdita, who is raised by shepherds for sixteen years and falls in love with the son of Leontes’ friend. When Perdita returns home, a statue of Hermione “comes to life”, and everyone is reconciled.

Simple, but add in a bear, songs, an oracle who communicates by telephone and a return of puppets from Nick Barnes (the team behind the West End’s Life of Pi) not to mention audience participation and you are guaranteed of an excellent and fun night for all the family.

The complete cast are brilliant, most taking on multiple roles.

If you are going to force me to single out one cast member, and it’s really not fear as they all truly are great, but stand out performance must be Emily Jane Kerr who had the audience eating out of her hand, a true superstar in the making.

Take the children, take the grandparents, take a picnic but above all take yourself along to Sutton Hoo for this summer’s must-see.

The Winter’s Tale is at Sutton Hoo until 26th August.

Box Office 01473 603388 or online

Review: Mark Keable, Ipswich24 Magazine