Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Another Knight at the Theatre

I had booked another ticket for the theatre – this time to see “The Tempest” – it was a joint production involving the RSC (which is based in Stratford on Avon) and the Baxter Theatre Centre (which is based in Cape Town). The production was touring, having previously been performing in Stratford, and being en route to the West End.

(picture from RSC website - more here)

I haven’t seen a live production of ‘the Tempest’ before, and it’s a while since I read it, so although I had a broad memory of the plot I couldn’t recall all the details, which I think is a good thing, as it allows you to see the play ‘fresh’.

In this case, the mixed Black & White, British & African cast and the very African setting made for a wholly new and exciting play. The Island on which Prospero (Sir Anthony Sher) and his daughter are shipwrecked, and Ariel and the other Sprites/Spirits living there were clearly native/African, as was Caliban (John Koni) and Prospero, The King of Naples and the Duke of Milan were present as Colonial Europeans, which made for a very interesting reading of the play – Caliban came across less as a villain than as an oppressed, wrongly dispossessed individual, mistreated by Prospero.

The songs were sung in (I think) Xhosa as well as English, and the various magics involved huge puppets, a giant Chameleon, puppet version of the witch, Sycorax, and Ariel on stilts, so it was visually a very exciting show, as well as verbally.

I was slightly underwhelmed by Anthony Sher’s Prospero – nothing wrong with his performance, just not stunning, either.

Ariel (Atandwa Kani) was very impressive, the more so as much of his performance depended on mime -he managed to balance the light-hearted, mischievous side of the character and the yearning to be free very well.

In short - an interesting, original and highly enjoyable show. And I was only thrown a little off balance by the fact that I have seen 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' (which of course owes much of it's plot and dialogue to Tempest) much more recently than I have read the play, and so part of me kept expecting the cast to burst into a rendition of 'Good Vibrations'....


Ticia said...

Sounds like a magical production!

Na said...

Sounds great.

The African/European Colonials theme seems very appropriate to that story. Shall have to go read it again. Mostly I remember Caliban's cursing of Prospero for having given him 'water with berries' and the language with which to curse him.

Marjorie said...

The theme did work really well - I don't believe that any of the text was altered but a lot fits really well!