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In a Pickle (Susan Elkin reviews)

An Oily Cart production commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, first performed as part of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012.
society/company: Oily Cart (Professional productions) (directory)
performance date: 19 Dec 2016

This multisensory, ovine take on The Winter’s Tale for pre-schoolers is utterly enchanting. Working in the imaginative style we have come to expect from the innovative Oily Cart, the show is totally immersive with most of the young audience seated at two long parallel fur-topped tables in a juvenile version of traverse theatre. On arrival in the studio, the children are invited to don woolly sheep’s ears and to come to the sheep party.

Once assembled there are flowers and herbs for them to smell, wind to feel, songs to hear and textures to touch until eventually a baby is found. The rest of the story involves getting her back to her parents who also need to be reconciled with each other. Some of the words, especially towards the end, are Shakespeare’s.

Because it’s an ensemble show individual actors aren’t named in roles apart from Sheema Mukherjee who plays evocative music (by Max Reinhardt and Finn Peters) on an electric sitar. All three of the others (Griff Fender, Katherine Vernez and Stephanie Rutherford) are strong, responsive performers highly skilled at engaging very quickly with individual children.

Claire de Loon’s delightful costumes deserve a special mention. The voluminous sheep’s baggy layers clip off easily during the sheep shearing scene leaving a hint of doublet and hose which, along with tall velvet hats, evoke Shakespeare’s own time. Leontes’s costume based on purple fabrics and green leaves manages to be simultaneously rural, regal and beautiful – quite a feat.

I first saw this show at Stratford in 2012 when it was created in partnership with RSC. Now directed by Patrick Lynch it has matured into something really quite special.

First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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