The problem for me with this late Shakespeare play has always been the lack of motivation behind Leontes' fit of jealousy which makes him imprison his wife and sacrifice his child. For the first time ever, I've now seen a production where the opening scene makes this jealousy totally credible. Simon Russell Beale displays the wary vigilance of a middle-aged man who sees his young wife cuddling and holding hands just a little too closely for comfort with a handsome man around her own age. Suddenly as Hermione and Polyxenes canoodle around on the cushions, a red light flashes on in Leontes' mind and he imagines the worst. Thanks to terrific performances by Russell Beale and Rebecca Hall, the Sicilian scenes have a real emotional depth. Sam Mendes, in an eerie parallel with the opening scene of The Cherry Orchard, sets this in the nursery, and the young son of Leontes and Hermione, supposedly asleep but in fact very much awake, overhears the confrontation between his parents. There are teddy bears everywhere, foreshadowing the fate of Antigonus, devoured by a life-sized grizzly at the start of the Bohemian part of the play. After the disappearance of Hermione and Leontes, it's always a challenge to make the sheep-shearing party scene work successfully. Mendes relies on his American actors to carry the Bohemian scenes, with Sicily standing in for Britain. Ethan Hawke does the business as a guitar-playing Autolycus, though at one point he reminded me of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. But after the realistic furry bear, I was disappointed by the lack of any trace of sheep or wool. The rural party sags a bit, and only comes to life with a rude dance involving balloons. I have to say I've seen this part of the play done better, notably by the RSC at the Roundhouse in 2002 when Matthew Warchus swapped Bohemia for West Virginia and turned the sheep-shearers into hillbillies. Among the other performances, Sinead Cusack stands out as Paulina. Unlike The Cherry Orchard, there were a few unsold seats at the Old Vic, but once the reviews are in I doubt if they will stay unsold for long. Russell Beale gives Leontes a tortured inner life and self-awareness that he has brought to all his major Shakespeare roles. I've seen him play Hamlet, Iago, Macbeth and Benedict, and his Leontes is a performance to be treasured.