The Tempest

The Tempest
Director: Gregory Doran
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Broadbent, Jenny Rainsford, Joe Dixon, Mark Quartley, James Tucker, Tom Turner, Daniel Easton
Seen on: 11.1.2017
[Here’s my review of the Julie Taymor movie version.]

Many years ago Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) was betrayed by his brother Antonio (Jonathan Broadbent). Antonio sent him and his daughter Miranda (Jenny Rainsford) off on a ship so that they may die, but they managed to survive and have been stranded on an island ever since. They are almost the only inhabitants of the island, apart from Caliban (Joe Dixon), the spiteful son of the former island ruler, and the sprite Ariel (Mark Quartley) who both have been enslaved by Prospero’s magic. Their existence is severely disrupted though when a ship sinks just off the island – a ship carrying not only Alonso the King of Naples (James Tucker), his brother Sebastian (Tom Turner) and his son Ferdinand (Daniel Easton), but also Antonio. Prospero knows that his time has come at last.

The Tempest was a gorgeous production with a strong cast and nice use of video projections. It still had a couple of issues, but I did enjoy it very much.

One day I will get to see a production of The Tempest where Caliban looks just like everybody else. Or maybe the most average cis white dude you can possibly imagine, basically the photography you’d find in the encyclopedia next to “normal” with all the social standards that go into that word. Just to really make the point that his monstrousness, his otherness is made and projected on him by the colonizers of his home – Prospero and his daughter. In this version (as with the Taymour one) they took care to make Caliban look dirty and alien with a healthy dose of ableism, stuffing Joe Dixon in a body suit to give him some humps and having him move in a strange shuffle.

But that was probably my biggest gripe with the play. I very much enjoyed the rest of it, although I have to admit that it was weird seeing the original version of the play where Prospero is a man. I still think, having the character be female is a huge improvement of the play. That is not to say, though, that Simon Russell Beale wasn’t great in the role, because he really was.

I also very much enjoyed Mark Quartley’s Ariel. The focus is very much on him in this version of the play, probably because he is the perfect canvas for most of the visual trickery that goes into the production. And there is a lot of trickery there – from turning Ariel into different shapes to changing the entire stage without moving a single part of it.

Amid all that technology one can be forgiven for losing sight of the play itself a little. But grounded in the cast’s performances, it never gets too far away, making it a really enjoyable way to spend an evening.

Summarizing: A visual feast and a good take on the play.

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