I go to see a lot of theatre but I never really write about the productions here, even though I write about the attractions that I visit tangentially all the time. Mostly it’s because I can never hope to guarantee a set time when these blogs posts will appear (it’s been over 3 weeks since I saw this production!), and partly because, quite rightly, you can’t take photographs during a production. You can however take pictures of the outside, so have a nice picture of the Globe before we continue. The Tempest was my second visit to the Globe. My first, in 2011, was to see a production of Doctor Faustus which I enjoyed a lot and when I also took the Globe Tour and visited the exhibition (I have no idea why not but I don’t appear to have blogged about that. Needless to say, you should go). It’s also not my first production of The Tempest; I saw it at Stratford-Upon-Avon some years ago when Patrick Stewart was playing the role of Prospero. I have also read the play so I already had some knowledge going in; if you’re looking for a synopsis of the play, this is not the blog post you’re looking for. Try here instead.
What I certainly didn’t imagine from my previous experiences was how funny the play can be. Language and dramatic pauses are used to great effect – the actors’ comic timing is perfect throughout – and there was a lot of audience interactions, from poor patrons being “urinated” on, to having their drinks stolen and their hats thrown about. (One unintentionally funny moment occurred just as the play was about start when a hapless steward in the middle gallery accidentally dropped several programmes onto the heads of the unwary below). Caliban in particular (played by James Garnon – who was also excellent in the touring production of Anne Boleyn I saw in Malvern last year) was both a figure of fun and quite a tortured soul, bounding across the stage and interacting with the crowd extremely well.
The main draw for me however had been Colin Morgan (Merlin in Merlin) and Roger Allam (many, many things). Roger Allam was Prospero, stern and proud, a powerful sorcerer who yet had a great weakness in his daughter Miranda. Colin Morgan was Ariel, Prospero’s captive sprite, wanting the freedom that was promised to him and forced to do as Prospero commands, but also seeming to seek his approval and even affection. Morgan dances and clambers about the stage and surroundings with ease and he has some of the most dramatic entrances – I particularly enjoyed his manifestation as a giant bird, on stilts with three other actors behind him controlling the wings.
As I’m finding usual with the Globe there was a great use of puppetry involved in the play – I won’t be forgetting the hounds that attack Caliban and his cronies any time soon – and music. Actors appeared in various levels of the theatre playing music, as well as the musician’s in the gallery, which certainly added to the interactive feeling. There was also the obligatory dance at the end, which the actors seemed to enjoy a lot, as well as a fun dance scene during the wedding of Miranda and Ferdinand – I had a very good view of the unimpressed faces with the situation Morgan’s Ariel was making.
The Tempest has never been a particular favourite of mine (though I am very fond of the sci fi film Forbidden Planet, which is based on the play), but I have reevaluated my appreciation for it, based on this production. It was beautifully staged and there is nothing quite like watching a Shakespeare play on Shakespeare’s (almost) stage.