I finally made the obligatory pilgrimage to Stratford Upon Avon this week, to see a few of the Shakespeare sites and to visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre / Company. I saw the RSC do the Histories Cycle at the Roundhouse way back in 2006, and I was excited to see the new theatre and my favourite play of Shakespeare’s, The Tempest. Even more so as Jonathan Slinger was playing Prospero. His performance as Richard II back in 2006, is one of my all time most memorable pieces of acting I’ve seen.
The new RST is a wonderful venue. We dined in the Rooftop Restaurant which was a wonderful venue with delicious food. I only have two gripes about the theatre – firstly the bookshop leaves a lot to be desired, a really poor selection I thought. Send one of your team to the National Theatre’s bookshop to see how to do it! Secondly, the seats in the theatre are also pretty uncomfortable. The Tempest is “only” two and a bit hours long, I dread to think what it’d be like sitting on those seats for Hamlet! It seems a shame that in all the effort and money that’s been spent on the theatre in the upgrade something as basic as seating was ignored.
Anyway “The Play’s the Thing”…
As I’ve said The Tempest is my favourite play of Shakespeare’s the magical Prospero, the comedy trio of Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano, the mystical Ariel, the lovers of Miranda and Ferdinand and the obligatory baddies of Sebastian (here played by a female) and Antonio, make for a dramatic play. It also contains some of Shakespeare’s finest lines, along with my all time favourite:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
No one does Shakespeare like the RSC and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t let down last night. I especially liked how Ariel was a mirror image of Prospero. Sandy Grierson, gave Ariel a nymph like poise and presence. Looking exactly like Prospero gave their relationship much more tension I thought. They both desire freedom, and that freedom is linked by what each can do for each other.
Jonathan Slinger gave his Prospero a complex range of emotions, not averse to snapping into a rage, we saw the confusion of the conjuror trying to manipulate the world via his magic to try to bring about the restoration he so strongly desires. Prospero is a hero, but with faults aplenty. Especially his treatment of the native Caliban. Prospero is a reflection of us all, trying to make our way through this life I feel, we all make mistakes, are blinded by our prejudices, but we are caught up in our own goals sometimes that we forget others around us.
The comedy was provided perfectly by Amer Hlehel as Caliban, Bruce Mackinnon as the drunk Stephano and Felix Hayes as Trinculo. Their physical and verbal comedy provided a great relief to the serious nature of this dark and melancholy comedy.
Emily Taaffe was a beautiful and fragile Miranda, whose love for Ferdinand was tangible. Solomon Israel played him with suitable amounts of dashing and desire. Their otherworldly wedding with conjured up spirits was a highlight for me.
I loved the haunting use of music throughout as Ariel put some of the characters under his spell.
I came away with a greater appreciation for this mysterious and sublime play. Many of the words and images are still floating round my head, 24hrs later. I’ve come under Prospero’s spell once more and feel I shall always be so.
STARS : * * * *