The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1480 Thursday, 10 August 2000.
Date: Wednesday, 9 Aug 2000 14:32:58 -0400
Subject: 11.1473 Re: Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1473 Re: Performing 'The Tempest'
As a happy fellow traveler with Carol Light on Joanne Walen's
Shakespeare Express, I had the pleasure of seeing the Tempest and Hamlet
at the Globe on our one day in London. I thought both productions were
wonderful, even though Vanessa Redgrave did not make, for me, a
convincing Prospero. Her softness, trying I think to give a "wise woman"
feeling, didn't project Prospero's fury, which gives dramatic tension to
his self-control, and his choice of virtue over vengeance. The part
seems to call for a man, though no doubt there's a woman somewhere who
could do it.
Everyone else, though, went beyond my expectations. The depth of acting
skills over there is awesome. Ariel was beautifully ethereal, Caliban
earthy with a vengeance, and both interacted skillfully and very
entertainingly with the audience. I like Arthur Lindley's point that the
theme was childhood's end. If you ask me, Stuart Manger should have no
fear about bringing students to either of these productions.
Incidentally, I thought Redgrave's finest moment was an ad lib. At the
end, after Ariel slid off the stage in a flesh-colored nightgown and
walked slowly through an audience parting before her to exit, Prospero
stepped forward to speak. At that moment a pigeon flew down through the
open O and circled the theater as the audience watched, wondering how
this would come out. The pigeon landed in the rafters above Redgrave,
who explained smilingly, "Ariel." The tension was happily released, and
the play ended on that up note.
Rylance's Hamlet was quite traditional, very fast moving, and one of the
most entertaining productions I've seen. Rylance still plays up Hamlet's
madness, and gets a lot of comedy out of it, but he's not as far gone as
he was when he played the part 10 years ago. He got a good laugh out of
the incongruity of saying "Good night mother" while dragging out
Polonius's body. A few decisions jarred, like his making
chicken-clucking noises while facing Laertes in the duel. But overall it
was a great experience. Rylance has an odd, mournful quality, which I
appreciated more this time. And the supporting cast was superb.
Last night I saw another very good Tempest, free on the Boston Common.
Prospero had a powerful masculinity that Redgrave lacked, though it was
a little too monotonous and studied to be great--too Charlton
Hestonish. Thomas Derrah's Caliban, in dark blue body paint, hardly
ever rising from his knees, was the star--angry, innocent, vulnerable. A
lithe, dancing male Ariel and a wonderfully drunkenly articulate
Stephano and Trinculo stood out too. Trinculo was played by a woman--as
a man, in 18th century dress--and Gonzalo was changed from a man to a
woman, named Gonzala, though she still wore pants. The production wasn't
as adventurous as the Globe's, and the acting talent pool not as deep,
but it was a magical evening under the stars and a clear half-moon.