Last week I watched a live broadcast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest. Yes, Shakespeare. Oh how I dreaded the topic in High School. ‘I don’t understand it’ I’d shout. ‘It’s so boring’ I’d cry. ‘Why do we have to study something so old’ I’d moan. Until the day Mrs. Macki put The Tempest on my desk.
It felt so different to his other works we’d read. There was magic, wizards and spells. It felt fictional instead of historical. I was swept on to this fantastical island and mesmerised by the storyline. So the RSC live broadcast immediately caught my eye. Especially since they had heavily promoted their groundbreaking technological take on the classic.
I’m sure you are familiar with the story, described by a group of primary school students on their website. But in a nutshell, robbed of his title and wealth a magician was expelled to an Island. Twelve years later, he unleashed a storm that caused a ship holding his enemies to crash. He inflicted many curses on his foes in revenge until he realised his only escape was forgiveness. Ta da.
It was refreshing to see the characters played with such modernity. They felt current and relatable. Simply from how they phrased their words, spoke in different accents and used simple mannerisms. Thankfully it wasn’t just the Queens English. It was cultural. It reflected and celebrated our society today. I especially enjoyed the comedy duo Stephano and Trinculos. They both lit up the stage with their cheeky energy. A bromance if I’ve ever seen one!
How funny, when I read the play as a teenager I pictured Ariel as an evil female spirit and Prospero as a broken angry man. But this version threw those assumptions out of the… ship. Ariel had a real connection with Prospero. He showed respect and care. He did want to impress. Be liked. And Prospero was broken yes, but also displayed a raft of emotions that showed he had a heart beating fast behind his solid facade.
The new technology was the driving force behind my visit as well as the production. Immediately, and with a shock, you are transported to a sinking ship. To a magical land where fairies frolicked. And to a foreboding forest with unwieldy weeds. It claimed the stage and made a lasting impression, no doubt. But as someone who studied human and computer interaction on stage, I had a couple of bugbears… The motion capture should have more detail and the projections should fit within the cloth. But I’m being picky!
Ultimately the projection gave this show depth. It opened up a whole other angle to staging Shakespeare. For the modern masses. And if any of his plays could pull the drama and magic off, it’s The Tempest. Shakespeare himself would be proud. Keep pushing the boundaries RSC.
Find out more about the RSC on their website, which has so many behind the scenes clips and interviews.
Do check out the vlog of my cheeky cinema trip to this Live broadcast.
Image Credits: RSC