I really enjoyed the Donmar Theatre’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’, it was a modern and unique performance of the traditional masterpiece which I feel worked very well. The staging was very effective; I liked the way the audience was seated on all sides with the stage in the middle – it made me feel more involved and included in the story, rather than being seated in rows, in front of a far away stage. For me this set up made the play more interesting and easier to follow. Whilst it was slightly controversial given the number of male characters in the play, I actually quite liked the all female cast. I felt the acting was good enough that it made me forget that the actors were women, instead I saw only the characters they were portraying.
Traditionally, the play is set on an island, however it this production it was set in a prison; perhaps playing off the line “Prospero, master of a full poor cell”. This was a very interesting angle as I felt it called into question whether or not the story is real, or if it actually takes place inside Prospero’s head. What I didn’t understand properly at the beginning was that the actors were playing prisoners, who were in turn playing the characters in the play. To start with I was vaguely wondering if the actors really were convicts who had set up a play for something to do, but I realized that it was all part of this modern adaptation. The prison setting highlighted the fact that all the characters are trapped; most of all Prospero, as he is trapped in the past as well as on the island, so he was played by a woman who claimed to be serving a life sentence.
This version cut out Act 1 Scene 1 from the story and instead inserted a quick sketch introducing the prisoners: I think it was a bit of a shame to lose the first scene, as it depicts the tempest and introduces many of the characters, whilst shaking up the social order. On the other hand, the scene of the storm was sort of added in during Act 1 Scene 2 when Prospero was describing his tempest.
I liked the use of props and thought Caliban’s costume (wearing plastic bottles around him) was very clever. It seemed that the island was made up of rubbish or things that needed to be recycled which gave the effect that the island itself was disposable and not permanent, and also added to the possibility that it was a figment of Prospero’s imagination as he was using the only things he could get his hands on (rubbish) to create his story.
Music was a very prominent feature in this production, and they had reinterpreted it so whilst they kept Shakespeare’s language, the music was extremely modern, upbeat and lively. This could have made the play seem a little crass, however I thought it worked well as the music was clearly well thought out to suite the different situations in the play. Lighting and timed sound effects also played a very important role; Ariel often moved in time with sound effects and there were moments when characters such as Miranda and Ferdinand seemed to pause in time whilst Ariel and Prospero talked aside.
Getting the audience involved by holding the little flashlights created a beautifully ethereal atmosphere towards the end of the play. In fact I felt involved and in character throughout the play, possibly due to how we entered the auditorium as if we were convicts being led in by guards!
It was a great experience and a very interesting interpretation of this iconic play.
- On another note, I recently saw ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ up in London and it was absolutely fantastic! I won’t be reviewing it as everyone is trying to #keepthesecrets but I will say that it is possibly the best play that I’ve ever seen and I would strongly recommend to anyone and everyone to try and get tickets!
- On another, another note, book reviews are on their way, I’ve worked up a bit of a backlog as I’m currently reading 5 books at the same time…..