- The Stage as a Page and the Stage as a Screen:Intermediality in Stefan Pucher’s The Tempest (Münchner Kammerspiele, 2007)
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest abounds in transits, transfers, and transformations. The play explores the Early Modern fascination and fear connected with sea voyage and newly discovered civilizations. It also exploits intersections ofscience, sorcery, and stagecraft in the portrayal of Prospero – a scholar, a conjurer, and a director in control of the island and the stage. Parallel to various forms of knowledge transfer – scientific, linguistic, or cultural – The Tempest involves examples ofmagical transmutation, from the eponymous sea storm, which sets off the action, to the masque celebrating the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand. Moreover, the play’s finale is ambiguous, if not alarming: Prospero’s decision to renounce magic and return to Milan as a vulnerable old man leaves him at the mercy of his former enemies. Unless we accept the possibility of redemption and forgiveness, we might feel that, rather than concluding with a happy ending, the play closes on the onset of a tragedy.
The structure of The Tempest as a play examining themes of transformation and transition within a meta-theatrical framework encourages an intermedial style of staging. Intermediality, understood as a productive and self-conscious application of media in performance, opens the possibility of investigating inter-relationships and interexchanges of theatre with other arts. Stefan Pucher’s production of The Tempest (Münchner Kammerspiele, November 2007), which stages the Shakespearean text through a range of theatrical, literary, cinematic, and musical genres, not only exemplifies, but also expands the possibilities of intermediality, while reflecting on the relationship between the stage, the page, and the screen.
Pucher’s staging exposes transfers and transformations inscribed within the play, as well as metamorphoses and modifications involved in the tradition of its performance. The production exploits intersections of media, in order to address textuality, authorship, and adaptation; those notions are fundamental for The Tempest, but they also underlie other of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespearean works frequently function both in popular imagination and in scholarly studies as literary shrines, rather than play scripts that encourage the act of transformation in the course of staging.
Pucher transforms The Tempest by means of dramaturgy, stage performance, film, music, and pop art, intertwined to create an intermedial performance, in which new technologies are integrated with more traditional means of staging, in order to expand the themes of the play. The mixture and multiplicity of media in the Kammerspiele production reflects the range of registers and styles co-existing in the tradition of Shakespearean staging and in contemporary performance in general.
The incorporation of digital technologies and the mixing of media have revolutionized performance practice in the last decades. It has resulted in “new modes of representation; new dramaturgical strategies; new ways of structuring and staging words, images and sounds; new ways of positioning bodies in time and space; new ways of creating temporal and spatial interrelations”.1 The study of [End Page 7] new technologies and media interactions in theatre and performance has, in turn, led to new ways of conceptualizing relationships between the page and the stage or the onstage and the onscreen appearance of performers, particularly when such research has avoided fetishizing the significance of either liveness or mediatization.
When in The Tempest, new technologies are used to represent the sea storm as cinematic act, the scene immediately marks the staging as a reflection on adaptation and authorship. The production incorporates innovative stage devices in order to suggest analogies between digital and print culture and to show the pervasiveness of literary models in Shakespearean reception. The design of the stage as an intermedial book with moving walls as pages frames the performance as the process of reading. The Kammerspiele version exemplifies the opportunities of intermediary in performance, not merely because Pucher applies a mixed range of media, but because he appropriates them in a meta-theatrical and self-conscious manner.
Performance as a Videotext
The Kammerspiele Tempest interweaves video clips, popular songs, and pop art allusions. Such an intermedial style has defined Pucher’s staging from the beginning of his career in the mid-1990s. After a brief collaboration...