Despite having once played the female lead, Hermione, in The Winter’s Tale Barbara Marten declares that she much prefers the role she is currently playing at the Crucible.
“I love the play but I am especially excited to be playing Paulina who I think is the best woman’s part in Shakespeare,” she says.
“She’s such a loose cannon. She acts like a man. she speaks out when other people dared not speak. There is a courage and honesty about her at the same time as wanting to beat the enemy. She is an inspiring woman.”
Paulina is a noblewoman, wife of one of the courtiers and friend of the maligned queen Hermione whose husband accuses her of an affair and believes their child to be illegimate. “Leontes and Hermione are a loving king and queen and then he turns into a despot and no one knows how to deal with him. Paulina knows this is ridiculous and has this mission to put it right,” says Marten.
Paulina triggers the king’s repentance after confronting him with the baby.
“It feels like a risky strategy,” continues the actress. “He could kill it and it seems for a while as though that’s what he’s going to do. Initially all her efforts seem to be in vain but gradually doubt sets in and we see she has made a difference.”
The actress played Hermione in 1990 at the Royal Exchange in Manchester when she was pregnant with her middle son. “I remember being very worried because although it is perfect for the first act when Hermione herself is pregnant, it posed problems with the statue scene in the second half - which is 16 years later.” The Winter’s Tale ends its run at the Crucible on Saturday.