Christopher Wheeldon’s beautiful adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play is a real treat to watch.

From start to finish Christopher Wheeldon’s vibrant, emotionally powerful take on The Winter’s Tale is filled with attention to detail particularly in terms of conveying the raw emotions of the characters portrayed by members of the Royal Ballet.

Through his explicit choreography, Wheeldon ensures that the audience really gets a true sense of King Leontes increasing suspicion, madness and eventual remorse in the first act, while in the second and third acts we are treated to a more romantic but equally poignant romantic and loving moments between Perdita and Florizel.

It is a story filled with strong contrasts and drama, beautifully captured throughout this fluent and engaging production – something that is portrayed immediately as we see Leontes and Polixenes growing up together and the build up to the circumstances that tear them apart. There is a gorgeous flow in this sequence of events that is mesmerising to watch.

But it isn’t just the dancing that is so wonderfully effective. Other elements of the production such as the soft and focused lighting – such as the moment when baby Perdita is abandoned or Leontes is seen deep in grief that adds a powerful poignancy. Meanwhile, Joby Talbot’s rich and lavish score and Bob Crowley’s gorgeous designs are also strengths in helping to push the story forward and capture the very essence of it.

There are also plenty of strong performances from the central performers. In particular, Edward Watson as Leontes is able to highlight a powerful range of emotions through his performance – not only showing his increasing suspicion of his wife Hermione’s behaviour but also his remorse and eventual joy at the end. It is an extremely controlled and believable portrayal. Elsewhere, Sarah Lamb delivers a delightfully exuberant and enjoyable performance as Perdita and is well matched with Steven McRae’s charismatic Florizel.

If there is one flaw with the production, there are some sequences that just tend to carry on for slightly too long – in particular the opening segment of Act Two feels as though it is more of a filler than to help push the story forward. This is a shame as the Royal Ballet dance it so beautifully but it just needs to be slightly more focused.

But this aside, this is still a beautiful and mesmerising production that captures perfectly just how ballet can be used effectively in storytelling.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐