Tara Fitzgerald talks about playing a human statue and explains what she likes about The Winter's Tale.
For me the classic image of the two theatre masks of comedy and tragedy really sums the play up.
You couldn't ask for more in a play. If you fancy a bit of tragedy, it's there; if you fancy a bit of comedy, it's there.
There is a lot of heart in it, and as a company we've endeavoured to find that. The poetry is so beautiful too, but it doesn't feel burdensome. It feels alive.
And I love that you can keep exploring the play, and discovering new things. That's what makes it so enjoyable to play.
I've read quite a lot about the play, and Hermione's always described as 'dignified', and she almost reaches a saint-like status in a lot of the descriptions.
I think it's true that she has enormous dignity, but she's not a 'Disney' princess. A lot of the situations she finds herself in are dictated by the mores of the time, and the power that women did or didn't have, but Shakespeare's genius is to give women a very clear voice, albeit confined by certain things.
To me, the key to understanding her is her love for her husband, that's her raison d'être, and she's completely faithful to him. That is what makes the story so devastating.
Coming back from the dead
One of the challenges is that after the first half of the play, Hermione disappears. You believe she's dead. And then she comes back at the end as a statue! You have to stop worrying about realism, and accept that it's a theatrical experience, defying explanation.
I did read somewhere that what she and Paulina do, in terms of disappearing and maintaining the notion that she's dead and then bringing her back as a statue after 16 years, could be perceived as a kind of cruelty.
For this production we chose to go more with the idea that Leontes wasn't ready to have Hermione back until the 16 years had elapsed.
It takes the duration of Perdita's childhood and the burgeoning of a new generation for things to be right for the reconciliation. Having Jo as Leontes on stage on top of the tower during the second half of the play keeps him active, in preparation.
On a lighter note, some of my mates who have seen the show have said that if I ever need to I could go down to Covent Garden and be one of the human statues you see there!