Friday, 2 December 2016

The Tempest, RSC

I hang around the back of the curtains at Theatreboard these days, but I'm hoiking out this post and doubling it up here, for the use of home educators looking for a video-Shakespeare theatre experience:

Took four 16/17-year olds to see The Tempest at the RSC yesterday. Much discussion followed, including sharp observations (one at college studying theatre). For those interested in teen views, here are 4 teen critics...

1: Wanted the stripped-back and bare versions of the play in the style at the Globe (pre-Rice) with 'actors in the raw' without props, so they were going to be difficult to please ... Teen critic complained about the opening scene with the actors not moving while the ship sloshes about ... they wanted the physicality of the actors bashing themselves about the stage and hanging onto ropes, as one would presumably do in a real Tudor storm; they thought the beginning showed the actors over-relying on the cinematic experience, or acting so as not to be in conflict with it. I think they ended the evening quietly impressed and won over by the beautiful brightness of colour and the imaginative use of image, but after they'd begun by whining 'This is not cinema, I want theatre' then it was hard to come back from that.

2. 'Stunning' Hugely impressed by the riot of colour and image; they enjoyed Ariel's turn as a hologram but complained about image twitching - we couldn't decide whether these were momentary glitches or a deliberate fractioning of movement to echo a style of electrical interference, Ariel being a spirit of the air, an'all (the latter interpretation is fine by me).

3. Enjoyed the costuming generally; very appreciative of the bones of the ship and how adaptable that was as a set; thought the Caliban costume was 'great' and loved the attention to detail on Caliban's fingers and fish fins; also loved how the characters on the island seemed to get muddy feet as they went though the play, as if showing they really were on an island; loved how the play had a bit of everything - opera, slapstick, anguished screaming and frivolity.

4. Found a lot to think about in the relationship of Prospero and Ariel, as in Prospero seemed to love Ariel more than he loved being a wizard conjuring spells with a stick (and who wouldn't want that?); commented how Russell Beale's performance brings out the menacing side of Prospero - they've previously seen Roger Allam in the role and they noted how very different were the interpretations. In the Allam version Prospero came over as resigned but bearing grudges, impetuous and given to rash judgement; with Russell Beale, Prospero comes across as much more considered: no-one wanted to get on the wrong side of him because he'd be vengeful and dangerous. As Prospero screams in Ariel's face, we all felt here was someone with such internal rage and sorrow, he'd be capable of anything.

Personally, I loved the presentation of this play. I thought the combination of sound and light and image was a knockout wonder, and I loved how it brought back the Masque to a proper status, and seems to mark a moment when we can have a new way to explore imaginative theatrescapes. I'd love to see it again in the cinema run, to compare how it works on a screen. Simon Russell Beale is wonderful, and I didn't feel the acting was at all compromised or weakened by the image show. So, from me, a lovely, lovely show. Moving, and visually WOW.
And if you have an opinion on it, then share it:

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