Friday, April 27, 2012

'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare

27 April 2012

On 25 June 1992 I made the mistake of going to see the Peter Greenaway film ‘Prospero’s Books’. With hindsight this was a mistake for two reasons: firstly, having never seen ‘The Tempest’ I found ‘Prospero’s Books’ incredibly difficult to follow and didn’t enjoy the experience at all; and secondly, it put me off seeing ‘The Tempest’. Last Saturday, nearly 20 years later, I braced myself finally to face a production of the play for the first time. Inevitably, I was very pleasantly surprised. We were at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘The Tempest’ as part of the RSC’s shipwreck trilogy, ‘What country friends is this?’. It was particularly fascinating, so soon after seeing ‘Twelfth Night’ (reviewed here in March 2012), to see the identical cast and director (David Farr) tackling this later work. Even the set (by Jon Bausor) was recognisably the same, albeit playing a slightly different part – the wooden ‘wave’ of floorboards having evolved into a more decayed version of its earlier self and now housing the giant perspex cube that formed Prospero’s cell. I really enjoyed discovering the play, which was funnier and with more of a plot than I had expected from my experience of Peter Greenaway’s adaptation. It was a great production, with Jonathan Slinger a wonderful Prospero and Sandy Grierson also standing out as an extremely eerie and unsettling Ariel. These two characters looked remarkably alike and there was a great moment when we were watching Prospero’s back as he was sitting as his desk only for him simultaneously to appear on the other side of the stage – the seated figure briefly turning around to show us Ariel’s face. Having the brother of the King of Naples, Sebastian, played as a woman (by Kirsty Bushell) added a layer of intrigue to Sebastian’s alliance with Prospero’s brother Antonio (played by Jonathan McGuinness). The conspirators here clearly appeared to be lovers – especially as we remembered the actors as Orsino and Olivia in ‘Twelfth Night’. The water tank at the front of the stage – used to such great effect in ‘Twelfth Night’ had been emptied – emphasising the dry, dusty exile of this desert island – so there were no further dramatic entrances from the water. But Ariel’s plunge from the skies, wearing angel wings, was a similarly stunning moment.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home