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Review The Globe’s production of The Tempest *****

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The Globe’s production of The Tempest is available:

  • As a DVD from Amazon UK  for £13.36 / ~$20.00. It does not seem to be available in the USA

  • The Tempest can also be streamed from The Globe Player for £5.99 / ~$9.00 or purchased and downloaded as an MP4 for £9.99 / ~$15.00

Prices are indicative – check the actual price at the Vendors’ links above.

Our Bottom Line:

An extraordinary performance, everything one hopes for at a Shakespeare production. If this is the standard of broadcasts you can expect from the Globe, you’re in for a treat.

 

Our Review (*****)

The Globe has started broadcasting Cinema Broadcasts of its productions  in the USA and Australasia. And of course, you can stream some productions directly to your PC / Internet-enabled TV from The Globe Player. To whet your appetites, there’s a review of the Globe’s production of The Tempest below. You can also see an extract from the production at: https://players-shakespeare.com/ariel-colin-morgan-and-prospero-roger-allam-in-extract-from-the-tempest/ A DVD of the production has been released which you can buy at Amazon at: The Globe’s production of The Tempest with Roger Allam and Colin Morgan

 Recently, instead of going to The Globe, 400 miles away in London, I went to my local cinema along with 13 others, to see a ‘broadcast’ of their production of The Tempest. This broadcast had much more the feel of a film than a broadcast. There was no sounds of the excited audience waiting for curtain up. It was not a ‘live’ broadcast, being very much a recording. Thankfully, there were no gushing media types interviewing the stars of the show in the interval.

The Globe has a number of differences from more conventional theatres such as the National Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare Theatre used by the RSC in Stratford. For a start, performances are in the open air, and the audience is visable to the players, and to themselves. This changes the theatrical experience enormously. Audience and players are much more engaged with eachother. Players pick out individuals and talk to them. Players often enter – and exit – through the audience. Stephano and Trinculo took great delight in throwing water over the groundlings, and Trinculo threw himself backwards into the theatre.

The stage is a big open space, visable from three sides, but wide and broad, rather than the RST’s narrow and deep stage. Having an open stage means that sets are usually minimal, leading to a focus on costumes – what wonderful costumes, as you’ll see below. Actors enter and exit from scene to scene mostly from the ‘tiring house’ a building behind the stage, with a balcony above. Ariel used the wall of this bulding to climb up to the balcony, swing in from the side, and generally give the impression of the airy spirit that s(he) is.

This environment is not dissimilar to the promenade performances which I  worked on: very simple sets; a focus on costumes; players engaging with the audience; and the audience becoming part of the play – in a locally famous productioon of Macbeth, the audience was the Forest of Birnham, carrying tree  branches to hide the English army.

I love this style of producing Shakespeare. It encourages imagination, both in the production team and in the audience. It encourages a focus on the language as the actors project their voices to cover an audience of 1,500 in the pit and in the stalls. Above and around it, the building of the Globe, tiring house, stage, pit and stall makes its presence felt just as in our promenade productions at Traquair, the House spreads its magic over every production. [You can find more of our reviews of Globe productions at: Globe shows to watch at home.]

How does this compare with more conventional theatres such as the National Theatre or the RST? Well London and Stratford theatre-goers tend to be a little bit sniffy about the Globe. It’s not ‘high-art’ (it receives no government funding!). It’s aimed at the tourist, rather than the culture-vultures at the NT or the RST. Just that little bit nearer the audience who would have attended Elizabethan plays.

For ‘Global Theatre’ visitors, attending Shakespeare productions in cinemas, it seems to have a number of advantages over NT or RST Broadcasts: in my view the open-air performance works so much better than the ‘lights-out’ approach of both the others; the bare sets with glorious costumes stimulates the imagination far more; and the language, the language, the language! In fact I found myself comparing this production with a Folger Luminary Shakespeare production of Hamlet. If I was a teacher of English, I would far prefer to take my students to see last night’s Tempest than study any number of Folger Lumiary Shakespeare productions.

 Let me try and illustrate some of the points I’ve been making by talking about the show:

If you can’t have complex sets, the opening of The Tempest is a little awkward – we start with a boat sinking. So how did this production manage that? A rope led down stage front, with most of the sailors holding on to it. The sailors, and the lords staggered on stage from side to side, as the stage stayed still, but the boat rocked. In the meantime, a model of a sailing ship was coming through the audience held on high until it reached the stage where the sailors etc., sheltered underneath it.

Above, on the balcony, Prospero is overseeing the progress of his storm, until Miranda enters through the audience.

Let’s face it, Miranda is usually a bit of a wimp in productions of The Tempest. Well not Jessica Buckley. She has to project her voice for an audience of Tempest - Miranda with Prospero1,500 so she has not much choice – she has to come across as a strong woman. They made a joke of it, with her carrying far more logs, with more ease, than poor old Ferdinand. But as well as her strength, she caught beautifully the feel on the non-socialised young woman Miranda is, having been brought up by her father, pretty much alone on a desert island.

There was also a nice touch which affected both Miranda and Ariel. When they stood down-stage-right at a certain spot, a waft of wind would blow Miranda’s skirt and Ariel’s kilt thongs (?) adding a little movement to the costumes.

Tempest Caliban, Trinculo, Stephano

On the whole, the costumes were excellent, and a mix of styles: the courtly costumes one might expect for Alonso and the courtiers; simple costumes for the castaways; and the slightly surreal with the comics – Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano.

Tempest Caliban

 I found Caliban’s costume, or non-costume, particularly effective.

 

But a show is more than costumes, there’s the players as well. The cast were uniformly good, though favourites have to be mentioned.  Roger Allam was superb as Prospero, and particularly good with the language. James Garnon was a revelation as Caliban, as was Colin Morgan as Ariel.  Jessie Buckley (Miranda) and Jushua James (Ferdinand) were touching and amusing as the young lovers.

James Garnon (Caliban), Trevor Fox (Trinculo), and Sam Cox (Stephano) stole the show (as often happens) as the comic drunks.

One problem area of the play is the blessing of the happy couple by  Iris, Ceres, and Juno. Modern tastes don’t seem to run to masque interludes any Tempest Miranda and Ceresmore. The production solved this with the use of slightly strange costumes, with the masque played camply by the two female singers and Ariel. It came across as more than a little surreal.

Before we leave the show a special mention has to be made of props. The harpy, played by Ariel with two attendants managing each of the harpy’s wings, with sagging breasts and clawed feet, was out of this world, and the skeletal dogs, managed as puppets on stage a la War Horse, by the singers, working extra hard in this production, were superb.

An extraordinary performance, everything one hopes for at a Shakespeare production. If this is the standard of broadcasts you can expect from the Globe, you’re in for a treat. And for those of you who would like to see a short extract from the production, just click on the following link: https://players-shakespeare.com/ariel-colin-morgan-and-prospero-roger-allam-in-extract-from-the-tempest/

 

But as well as watching the show, why don’t you read it, or even better, play some of the scenes with your friends:

To read the play, click on this link: The Tempest Script

To play some scenes with a few friends click on one of the scenes in the following list:

A1S2: Prospero tells Miranda their history (2 players)
A2S1: Sebastian and Antonio are tempted (5 players)
A2S2: Caliban discovers new gods (3 players):
A3S2: Friends fall out (4 players):
A4S1: Magic and Masque at Miranda and Ferdinand’s nuptials (5 players)

Let’s Play!

The Director
Players-Shakespeare.com
playersshakespearemffev5@gmail.com

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5 Responses to "Review The Globe’s production of The Tempest *****"

  • Claudia
    July 3, 2014 - 7:03 am Reply

    I traveled from Mexico to London last August just to see Mr. Colin Morgan in The Globe’s production of The Tempest, and the whole experience was absolutely fantastic!! I was there, a first row groundling, just in the center of the stage, amazed by all the great performances, the music, the singing, the skeletal dogs, the harpy, the ethereal Ariel… I can’t wait to see The Tempest again, now in the cinema!

    • Richard Forsyth
      July 3, 2014 - 10:35 am Reply

      Hi Claudia,
      I do hope you get to see it again – it was a great performance.
      There are more Globe performances on cinema coming soon as well – of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
      Enjoy!!!!

  • Montse Bru (@brumontse)
    July 3, 2014 - 1:39 pm Reply

    Hi Richard! 🙂

    I agree with you when you describe the intimate feeling you get with stage at The Globe Theater.
    I have some colleagues, who have acted in this particular place, and they have described it to me as an unforgettable experience and great emotional intensity.
    They were impressed by the beauty, authenticity and attention to the details that make the Globe so original and unique.
    About “The Tempest” I think this is the most beautifully written of any Shakespeare play, of whatever category. I particularly liked the mystical and magical elements of the play induced by Prospero’s powers. But, All Globe productions are interesting. 🙂
    Thanks, and great review!

    • Richard Forsyth
      July 4, 2014 - 10:41 am Reply

      Hi – many thanks for the kind words on the review – it has been popular.
      I’ve seen productions at The Globe but never had the pleasure of acting on it.
      The intimacy you describe is certainly there for an audience member, and it must be magical to be an actor on that stage!!!
      Richard

  • mary jane limos
    July 10, 2014 - 4:55 am Reply

    I was so amazing who see the tempest of colin morgan. He was a good actor also all the actor at the tempest. I only see the tempest at fb and its wonderful. I wish i could see more. Good luck and more power take care always!!!

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