Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ at the Donmar Theatre

donmar-the-tempest

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…..

Jane Eyre

I really enjoyed the National Theater’s production of Jane Eyre. I thought that the set with all the different levels to stand on was used cleverly to show the social standing of the characters (e.g. Mr Brocklehurst stood much higher to Jane). It also allowed the characters to show a lot of movement in the play. It was great having the live music on stage as I felt it added to the atmosphere of the play. I loved how the character Bertha was portrayed. The actress would appear on stage at intervals from the beginning to the end of the play and sing, never interacting or talking with the other characters. The actress/singer’s voice was incredible and the overall effect was haunting. It took me a while to realize that she was Bertha but when the realization struck me it fitted perfectly. I loved the use of fire on stage and thought that it was very sneaky of the people in charge to give Bertha a red dress and Mr Rochester a red shirt given all the connotations surrounding the colour red.
I liked the way Jane changed ages with the addition of different clothes, and her movement from place to place was extremely comical and provided a little light humor as did the actor playing Mr Rochester’s dog Pilot. Sometimes when an actor or actress plays more than one role it can be quite confusing, but in this case it was very effective. All the actors and actresses were very versatile and it was easy to tell which character they were at any given moment. I felt that more emphasis could have been placed on the character Helen Burns as it didn’t really feel that she made as much of an impact on Jane as she did in the book.
Overall, it was a very good, high speed performance that was entertaining but also loyal to the book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the book or the movie.

4.5/5 rating.

Les Miserables

Les-Miserables

A while ago I went to see Les Mis at the theatre in London with a friend, and it was absolutely epic! I’d previously seen the movie, and a film of the stage production. The production I saw on the film used a giant stage and it seemed to only be semi acted as there was a row of microphones along the front of the stage which the actors used.

However, I saw it at the Queen’s theatre which has a much smaller stage so the staging of it was quite different and quite brilliant! The stage floor had a giant circle that took up most of the stage. It was used not only to add more movement to the production, but to enhance the swiftness of the set changes which were really quite nifty. The set itself was very good with big pieces being used for different purposes when they were laid on their sides (The big set pieces used for the slums in Paris with Marius were placed horizontally to become the barricade later on!).

The costumes and props were great and the use of the lighting and gunshot sound effects made it very atmospheric and realistic.

I loved the fact that it wasn’t a copy of the film, it had little things that were different and the actors and actresses all brought something new to the play. The actress who played Eponine (Carrie Hope Fletcher) was particularly stunning, she had an incredible voice and stage presence.

I would definitely recommend it, even if you have seen the film, it is a different experience to siting in a cinema, and well worth the while.

5/5 rating.