The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1521 Wednesday, 16 August 2000.
Date: Tuesday, 15 Aug 2000 19:00:44 GMT
Subject: 11.1508 Re: Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1508 Re: Performing 'The Tempest'
In saying that the Globe performance still made Antonio menacing, I only
meant that to play 2.1 comically, by presenting Sebastian as rather
dimwitted, could easily leach out the menace; I think this performance
managed not to do so.
In response to David Bishop - yes, of course, he is right to stress the
way in which conflicted responses are of the nature of this play (and
many others). I was simply responding to the fact that in the Globe
production there was very little sense of Caliban as wrongfully
dispossessed - the comic presentation (and, it must be said, the lack of
any real sense of threat from Redgrave's Prospero) meant that the
audience reaction to his complaints was rather one of condescension than
pity - the amused tolerance one might give to a misbehaving child or
pet. And, in this respect, it did seem in its effect to chime with
reports of older stagings of the play.
Marcus Dahl suggests that the 'straight' or 'romantic' makes little
appeal to the modern teenage audience. I think that was true of this
performance, where Will Keen's efforts to play Ferdinand 'straight' were
diminished by a Miranda of extravagant, but repetitive gesture. Keen's
valiant effort may have been influenced by the fact that he played
Trinculo in the Leeds production last year, where Rashan Stone and
Claudie Blakely managed wonderfully to make the betrothal scene, 3.1.,
moving and powerful. It is, in my view, one of the most perfectly
written scenes in the play, provided the actors trust the rhetoric and
are not afraid of it. It can work, even with a modern audience, but,
like so many other highly rhetorically sophisticated scenes (one thinks
of Rosalind's patterned exchanges at the end of AYLI, or the recognition
scene between Viola and Sebastian in TN) it's always on a bit of a
knife-edge; push too hard, aim at too much naturalism, and it's blown
But then, the Globe production had Miranda at the end going round and
cuddling all of the men she suddenly saw on stage and getting rather
close to an evidently interested Antonio - which seemed to me typical of
the brainlessness of much of the production. There are, of course,
precedents in theatrical history for representing Miranda in this
fashion - but to me the crass underlining of Prospero's ironic comment
"tis new to thee' in the suggestion that Miranda and Ferdinand's
marriage is not likely to last is an irony too far.