Lion in Winter's historical plot still packs a modern punch

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Scene from The Lion in Winter

Courtesy of Ross Davidson

The Lion in Winter
The London Community Players production
Director: Don Fleckser

3 stars

The London Community Players’ production of The Lion in Winter explores the oppositions between past and present, fiction and nonfiction, and tragedy and comedy.

Director Don Fleckser integrates these differences successfully, making for an intriguing production.

The play focuses on the aging King Henry II of England (David Bogaert), who must choose one of his three sons as successor to the throne while balancing international affairs with the youthful King Philip of France (Steve Stockwell).

Playwright James Goldman combines the past and present through family relations and power struggles.

A Christmas court at Chinon, France brings together the real characters of medieval England and France in a pivotal scene. Such historical events are reinterpreted through modern ideas of child rearing and sexual orientation.

Set designer Kevin Bice makes effective use of a simple space by suspending a giant glimmering crown above centre stage. The setpiece is a constant reminder of the goal for which every character strives.

The actors command the stage with both old and new styles of performance. The middle-aged King Henry portrays his quest for power with stately tradition, while the teenaged Prince John (Brandon Stafford) delivers his aggressive emotions in a blunt, modern style.

However, both kings and princes are overshadowed by the dominating Queen. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s (Julia Webb) deceit and manipulation rivals that of King Henry.

Webb’s talent surpasses even Bogaert’s acting abilities. Her monologues display honest introspection while her exchanges with other characters display expert comedic timing.

The true power of The Lion in Winter lies in its balance eloquent dialogue with sensational drama and sardonic wit. The intelligent writing, shown through the characters’ various battles of will, cater to a mature audience. The operatic drama of twists and turns between husbands and wives, lovers and mistresses add an enjoyable amount of tension.

The Lion in Winter plays at The Palace Theatre Nov. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit

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