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Reviewed by:
  • The Tempest
  • Susan L. Fischer
The Tempest Presented by The Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. July 28–October 12, 2006. Directed by Rupert Goold. Set designed by Giles Cadle. Costumes designed by Nicky Gillibrand. Lighting designed by Paul Anderson. Music and Sound designed by Adam Cork. Video designer Lorna Heavey. Movement by Michael Ashcroft. With Patrick Stewart (Prospero), Mariah Gale (Miranda), Julian Bleach (Ariel), John Light (Caliban), Ken Bones (Antonio), Finbar Lynch (Alonso), Nick Court (Ferdinand), John Hopkins (Sebastian), James Hayes (Gonzalo), Craig Gazey (Trinculo), Joseph Alessi (Stephano), Chris Jarman (Adrian), Edmund Kingsley (Francisco), Paul Barnhill (Boatswain), Allyson Brown (Goddess), Golda Rosheuvel (Goddess), Emma Jay Thomas (Goddess), Ravi Aujla (Mariner), Rob Carroll (Mariner), Luke Neal (Mariner), and David Rubin (Mariner).

"Like an ice-berg, The Tempest seems to hide most of its bulk beneath the surface." Perhaps this program note Anne Barton provided for John Barton's 1970 RSC production of the play has never rung more true than in Giles Cadle's set design for Rupert Goold's 2006 mise en scène. Although actually set in Antarctica, the scenes recalled Ernest Shackleton's harrowing Antarctic adventure of 1914 as captured by crew photographer Frank Hurley (actors actually admitted to having stared at paste-ups of [End Page 138] such images in rehearsal). The set revealed the many faces of sea ice—pan ice, pack ice, pancake ice (the latter in particular)—which depends for its form on water conditions at the time of freezing. Prospero's isle resembled a jagged ice floe in a polar wasteland where, for example, Caliban's "hard rock" was an ice mound that faced out to the sea under a misty, blue-grey and, at times, coppery sky; and where the shipwrecked king and his entourage, dressed in a combination of dinner- and life-jackets, shivered in howling gale winds and crunched on glacial ice. Gonzalo's propensity to "but mistake the truth totally" was made even more palpably apparent as he tossed a fistful of snow and declared, not without a tinge of irony, "How lush and lusty the grass looks! / How green!" Similarly in 3.3, the king and his retinue fit the bill of "mountaineers," for they used ropes typical of mountain climbers in descending the slippery ice mound amidst gusts of wind and flakes of snow (especially copious when Tesco's ice machine was working to capacity). The "strange shapes" that brought in the requisite "banquet" in 3.3 also resembled mountaineers in their fur coats and hoods; they hauled in a sled laden with a life-size dead Weddell seal (most critics erroneously assumed it was a whale) marked with a red stripe. These islanders' "dumb discourse" of bilabial chants ("mbubumbum"), and their clanging accompaniment of bells, created "living drollery" enough. The practice of early explorers on the A(nta)rctic Peninsula shooting Weddells for meat was an integral part of this scene: Sebastian got soaked in blood up to his elbows as he pulled raw flesh out of the seal's blubbery guts and distributed it amongst his ravenous comrades. The mock banquet ended horrifically and spectacularly when the "harpy" Ariel catapulted out of the seal's innards in the form of a vampire, with a bloody skeleton, tentacles, and stick fingers for wings, in order to chastise the "three men of sin," who were well individualized in his production. As is often the case in this scene, scripted entrances and exits were transposed. Prospero emerged from behind the ice mound only after the nobles had departed, rubbed his hand in the seal's blood, and concluded his speech commending Ariel's performance with the vindictive words, "They now are in my power," as green and yellow strobe lighting and thunderous sound effects signaled the interval.

This Prospero's isle was a frozen, northern wasteland that appeared to fly in the face of the "yellow sands" of the Bermudas or Africa of which Ariel sings. But "what seem[ed] at first the worst kind of gratuitous theatrical innovation [was] a brilliant stroke, illuminating the text afresh" (Christopher Hart, Sunday Times, August 13, 2006). The production's eclecticism and originality...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 138-141
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-12
Open Access
No
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