Royal Shakespeare Company: The Tempest
On a distant island a man waits. Robbed of his position, power and wealth, his enemies have left him in isolation. But this is no ordinary man, and this no ordinary island. Prospero is a mag... Read allOn a distant island a man waits. Robbed of his position, power and wealth, his enemies have left him in isolation. But this is no ordinary man, and this no ordinary island. Prospero is a magician, able to control the very elements and bend nature to his will. When a sail appears ... Read allOn a distant island a man waits. Robbed of his position, power and wealth, his enemies have left him in isolation. But this is no ordinary man, and this no ordinary island. Prospero is a magician, able to control the very elements and bend nature to his will. When a sail appears on the horizon, he reaches out across the ocean to the ship that carries the men who wrong... Read all
Despite also initially worrying about whether the technology would get in the way of the drama and be too overblown. It did make me think though that if done right that it could solve the potential problems of scenes looking cheap, the setting is meant to be wondrous and mysterious but too many productions have suffered from budget constraints. There was also further hope as although Gregory Doran is not the most innovative of directors he showed in his production of 'King Lear' that he does understand Shakespeare's style and text and the character complexity. Also hugely admire Simon Russell Beale, very seasoned in Shakespeare and wonderful in it. Watching this production, there is a lot to admire, namely the performances, and did appreciate what the production was trying to do, but any potential traps of having this amount of emphasis on technology are fallen into.
A lot is done right here. The best thing about this production of 'The Tempest' is Russell Beale on towering form as Prospero. Prospero is a very complex character, Russell Beale makes him a complex character just by his sheer presence and line delivery alone and not only clearly understood the character but brought things to him not seen before in other interpretations, showing both intense fury and also a poignant sincerity beautifully balanced and handled with great ease and magnificent authority. The other standout is Joe Dixon, he brings a sympathetic quality to Caliban that is very affecting while also not forgetting the character's monstrous side that is quite sinister to watch.
Got a lot of enjoyment too out of Mark Quartley's ethereal and entertaining Ariel, who never comes over as too mannered. Simon Trinder and Tony Jawawardena didn't come over as too clownish or annoying in roles (and types of characters) that are so easy to overplay, they do try too hard at times but it doesn't become unbearable. As one can tell, most of the production's appeal is to do with the cast. Doran's stage direction is never really a major disaster (though it left me somewhat mixed), he does understand the text and the meaty characters (so Prospero and Caliban) are directed with insightful complexity and with good understanding of the characters. The production certainly looks imposing and does have a wonder and mysteriousness, it makes a real effort to solve potential problems with scene changes and not being stage bound.
When it comes to the visuals though it could have fared better. The spectacle does tend to distract from the drama, meaning that we should be paying attention to the stage direction and text and are instead concentrating on the visual effects. While they do look great, one doesn't properly get immersed in this setting, some of the more ambitious moments bog the pacing down so there are dull stretches and they can be too confined. Doran's stage direction shines in how Prospero and Caliban are directed and some of the direction for Ariel is striking, he also reigns in the comedy enough so that it doesn't get too broad, but elsewhere there is not much that is that distinct or imaginative. It's all present and correct but could have done with more spark.
Moreover, the music serves its purpose but is fairly forgettable and doesn't always fit. Occasionally the comedy is on the strained side and while Jenny Rainsford and Daniel Easton do their best as Miranda and Ferdinand they struck me as rather bland and don't delve into their roles very deeply.
In conclusion, nothing is done disastrously but exceptional quality more comes in spades than as an overall whole. To be seen for the acting, which is superb at its best, but there are better Royal Shakespeare Company filmed productions available when it comes to the directing and how the visuals are used. 6/10
- Mar 5, 2021