Tuesday, 4 June 2013

an escape to the thatch-roofed theatre...

I am currently in the middle of my A levels (ugh) and so it was a delight to be allowed to escape the insanity-inducing monotony of revision for an afternoon with my Dad, and get back to that wonderful place (it's been too long) Shakespeare's Globe!
Two Shakespeare's in one week. Love it.
This time it was to go and see 'The Tempest', a play which I have reviewed before. Last time I was left more than a little unimpressed... this time I was on the edge of my seat.
Literally. We were up in a 'gentleman's box' (incidentally the same one I saw my first Shakespeare ever in!) and so the entire time I was leaning over the balcony rails, looking down on the players. Chilly, but lovely.
Colin Morgan as Ariel
(via www.fyeahcolinmorgan.tumblr.com!)
Roger Allam's Prospero was a marvel; he brought some pathos and likability (both present in his other Globe performance, Falstaff) to a usual cold fish of a character; suddenly I found myself liking Prospero - not easy to do. His worry and care for his daughter was evident in every line and even Prospero's speeches were spoken with heart (a lovely moment when, after telling his already attentive daughter to listen to him for the fourth time, she says 'Your tale, sir, would cure deafness!'). Allam has a voice built for the Globe, and the planes (PLEASE can we change the flight paths) that zoom overhead are about as much trouble to him as a fly. In fact, he almost used them to his advantage; during his spell casting, they served quite well as a sort of thunder. Unfortunately, being at the side of the Globe I think we missed the point of the effect of Prospero elevated and in the centre of the stage, casting his spells, but, as ever, the musical effects using Renaissance style instruments were highly evocative; deservedly the band got a loud cheer at the end!
Jessie Buckley was a strong if quite same-y Miranda, but Joshua James was a splendidly foppish, gangly Ferdinand, struck by love at first sight. Colin Morgan (of Merlin fame) was a wonderful Ariel; not in the least bit camp or pantomime, but graceful, strong and childish; I particularly liked his onstage monkey bars! Where he and Prospero are usually presented very much as master and slave, here Propero's gentle exasperation at Ariel's innocent forgetfulness of his past life spoke of a far closer relationship.
The show, though, belongs to James Garnon as a simply spectacular Caliban. As usual at the Globe the set and costumes were beautiful - and also had to be swiftly reset for A Midsummer Night's Dream that evening, kudos, guys! - but Caliban took your breath away. With pale, iris-less eyes, horned hair, and skin that matched the marbled rocks and pillars of the stage, he was genuinely frightening. His physicality throughout the show was hunched, crouched, and ever subservient. His journey through hate, anger, shame, fear and humiliation was the one you were watching most. I could not drag my eyes from him.
'The Tempest' is a long 'un, and is undoubtedly weak in places - you have the usual Shakespeare clowning that can grate a bit, an unfortunate tableaux of Roman deities e.t.c, but this, literally, is what the Globe was built for. The relationship that the cast create with the audience is simply magical, and like nothing else; the very shape of the building promotes inclusiveness. This was a light, lyrical telling of this usually darker tale, and some wonderful comedy was brought out of not necessarily funny moments. And, with its wonderful picture of a father/daughter relationship, it was lovely to see it with my Dad! A great success, and a magical relief from studies.

 James Garnon as Caliban - c.Marilyn Kingwill, The Times
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