By Cathy Lee
On Wednesday January 11, I had the pleasure of seeing a Shakespeare play alongside one of my very good friends. We both share an interest in things literary and I was delighted to be invited to see this showing of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.
What was different about this experience of Shakespeare was although I was watching one of his fantastic plays, it wasn’t on stage. In fact it was playing out on a large screen at the Eye Cinema, Galway. I was delighted to discover that despite the sounds of people crunching popcorn around me, it would be a great night of theatre – while not being at the theatre.
The Royal Shakespeare Company of London broadcast their performances to cinemas every couple of months. This really is a modern way to do Shakespeare. Don’t get me wrong, I love the theatre and seeing a play like any regular enthusiast but honestly I really wouldn’t knock the cinema experience. It was something entirely different and the quality of acting and producing was really outstanding. We were in awe of the story itself as it varied from scenes of disaster and hopelessness combined with comedy, love and relationships as well as final friendship in unlikely circumstances.
The story of The Tempest is well known and often told, given the amount of years it has been around for. But whole-heartedly, this version of the play was something utterly different and fell perfectly into the 21st century with the audience responding well also .When the director Gregory Doran, producer Pete Griffin and actor Mark Quartley, who plays the spirit Ariel, were interviewed during the intervals, you could truly see how much work was put into this production. This was something I suppose you wouldn’t get with regular theatre.
The play looks at the exile of a well-respected man, Prospero, played by Simon Russell Beale and his beloved daughter, Miranda (Jenny Rainsford) to an island with some magical qualities. There is a ship wreckage, how we are introduced to the tale, and a lot more people end up on this island than just the man and his daughter. We discover more about the slave to the family Caliban and the friend to Prospero, the magical spirit Ariel throughout the play.
While the play looks at the interaction between the royal sailors and the family, it also thoroughly explores the emotional relationship between father and daughter. The idea of moving on within the life-course and giving over to somebody else’s happiness being put before your own is looked at in detail. The principle character has to come to terms with his past as well as accepting the future that he wishes his daughter to have.
Quality of life is tested throughout the play, as the characters individually wish for more for themselves. This exploration of this puts into question who is good and who is evil in this tale. Described as Shakespeare’s most magical play, the technical enhancement to portray these magical elements played a huge role in the success of the play. It really was the highlight and could be particularly seen with the character Ariel, to bring his magical qualities well and truly to life. This was done through special lighting, voice-changing, colour and a high-tech costume that allowed a completely new portrayal.
I now know that the dusty copy I own of The Tempest will soon be coming off the book shelf as the play is very relevant to modern times. Sometimes the satellite buffered, but overall it didn’t take a lot away from the play. The experience was quite interactive and you could also tweet your reactions as the play was being broadcast. This was certainly a very modern take on a classic and I had to agree with actor Mark Quartley, that it was something bold and daring that Shakespeare himself would have been proud of.
Photo: credit to site https://www.rsc.org.uk/the-tempest/about-the-play