Sunday, 2 March 2014

the tempest at the globe

On Tuesday 7 May last year I saw The Tempest at The Globe, starring Roger Allam. I'm not a big fan of The Tempest as a play. I think it's one of those which if it wasn't by Shakespeare would rarely be performed. In fact it's considered to be one of his great late plays.

I think I've seen it twice, the time before with Derek Jacobi at the Old Vic. If it hadn't had Roger Allam in it (and probably also if it hadn't been at the Globe) I wouldn't have gone to see it again. I'd see Roger Allam in anything; he's great. He was, indeed, very good as Prospero. But it's one of these plays which veers wildly in tone, plot and subject matter; and far too much of the play is an unfunny comedy subplot.

(In fact I think the latest thinking is that The Tempest is a co-write, with the 'good bits' (Prospero's bits, mainly, I presume) written by Shakespeare and the less good bits written by someone else (which seems to be an increasingly common approach to a number of the plays, perhaps reflecting academic research on the extent to which plays of that time were co-writes, or perhaps reflecting the self-fulfilling prophecy approach to Shakespeare's genius, where if there's a good bit in someone else's play it was by him and a bad bit in his own then it was by his collaborator).)

At this distance I remember Miranda was pretty good, but the only others I remember are the luckless actors required to play the unfunny comedy rebels.

Let's see if the first couple of pages of reviews in a Google search jog my memory in any particular way. The first review up is Radio Times, bizarrely, which straight away reminds me that Ariel was played by Colin Morgan who played Merlin in the BBC TV series; I'd seen the actor playing Caliban previously, I think at the Globe, and he was good then, but this review reminds me that in this his accent seemed to be dangerously close to a caricature of a Caribbean accent, he had an apelike walk, and he was, I guess, supposed to be covered in mud and clay (rather than being 'browned up', which was an odd set of choices. The Globe page for the production. (makes an interesting point that in his view the play isn't about revenge but the father-daughter relationship). The Guardian makes a similar point, saying that in fact this is drawn out by Roger Allam's performance in this production; also reminds me of the long odd masque at the end (and my impression that Prospero was mouthing all the lines, creating it magically). Exeunt. Telegraph. The Week. Evening Standard (which tells me that the actress who played Miranda came second in I'd Do Anything, the 'play Nancy' reality tv competition). Rev Stan's blog (who went to see it only because Colin Morgan was in it). Daily Mail. What's On Stage. Financial Times. Daily Express. Quiet as Mouse blog (new to me, I think). London-reviews blog. The Stage. The Arts Desk. Time Out (I think they've slipped down the review search results since they stopped being a proper magazine - last on the second page). Broadly speaking, they mostly liked it more than I did.

(Another Google search does I think confirm that I did see Derek Jacobi as Prospero at the Old Vic; 2003 sounds plausible. Pretty sure I was there with Bethan, Daphne and Simon. Don't remember anything about it at all, except a distant figure which I presume was Derek Jacobi. Almost certainly was in the cheap seats in the Lilian Baylis Circle, which for a small theatre always feel very far away from the stage.)