The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2266  Thursday, 7 December 2000

From:           Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 6 Dec 2000 22:55:02 +0000
Subject:        New Stratford Tempest

A ripple of white stage descending from a steep curved drop, a
projection screen, and some absolutely stunning live vocalised / vocal
music very reminiscent of (plagiarised from?) Stockhausen's 'Stimmung';
a black Miranda (possible? does it matter?), a black Ariel, a Caliban
that was clearly in the early stages of language and socialised learning
of all kinds, and a still, amused, avuncular, controlled, and
beautifully spoken part gentle, part angry and irascible Propsero, a
terrific knees ep Lord of the Dance parody masque in Act 4, and the best
Sebastian / Antonio I have seen in years, and the least funny Stephano /
Trinculo ditto, tho' did they try to be funny? Oh, yes, they certainly

Philip Voss is the admirable Prospero: no histrionics, no fuss, no
posturing, but a man you might want as father in law. Wonderful bottom
register, soft and cadential top, and all the notes in between. Poetry
there, BUT it never holds things up. The big Act 4 post-masque speech is
what it is, an apology to Mir / Ferd for his rash interruption, and
insistence on their own mortality when the look at hik incredulously
after 'leave not a wrack behind'. Very human. Voss sees the climax NOT
there, but at Ye elves of etc, AND the absolutely magically disarming,
retiring, embarrassed epilogue which I have never seen better done in
thirty years of Tempest watching.

Zubin Varla's Caliban was simply embarrassing: fidgets, vocal cracks and
swoops, touching, fingering, staring and quite, quite dreadfully
mannered, and just plain silly, no moral / psychological development at
all at Prospero's forgiveness, and you know that he'll make exactly the
same crass errors the next time a group of characters drop out of the
moon. he was marginalised by all, and played in a little acting capsule
of his own and made no contact with us, the other actors or the text,
for all the physicality of his work. I have seen him as the worst Romeo
I have ever seen,  some eight years ago to the ill-fated Juliet of Emily
Woof, and the brilliant but long-suffering Julian Glover's Friar.  As a
producer myself, I watched the other actors with Varla. These are
supreme pros, but I know the signs: they pretend to, but if you look
carefully, they simply could not bring themselves to watch, look at
him.  Backstage chat might confirm that this is not a view confined to
this critic. I say no more.

Worth seeing?? Oh, yes, very definitely. so many little insights,
terrific thought, genuine re-thinking of text, relationships - e.g.
Antonio is NOT reconciled to Propsero, but stares Propsero out as the
dukedom is stripped away in Act 5, not a flinch, not a whisper of
remorse. And far funnier than the leaden-unfunny Steph / Trinc. It's all
in the timing: they just kept missing the rhythm of joke lines, to
posturing, too self-important - the actors, NOT the characters - and
instead of letting the jokes make themselves by playing them, they put
brackets round them, flew balloons off them, like the bad old days of
RSC comedy ensemble, terribly self-consciously being funny with Shak
comedy. The Ferdiand is young, looks handsome, plays naive winningly, is
just a thoroughly nice lad, and Propsero knows he's fallen on his feet
with this son-in-law alright! And a very mean dancer too!

The show is currently about to tramp round lesser venues in UK but will
end up in London. It's quiet, full of integrity - Caliban apart - and
illuminating, no grand Prospero 'acTOR' stuff, thank the Lord. It's
smashing. And the music is to quietly die for - even if it is lifted
from Stockhausen. I shall go again in April when it passes my door in
the English Lake District in April.

Stuart Manger

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