If An Interesting Monster Can't Have An Interesting Hairdo, I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To

One of the nice things about spending a big chunk of time here in Stratford is that I get to see the plays more than once. I’ve now see their Tempest twice, and I think I was a bit too hard on it the first time around – possibly because my mood wasn’t right, possibly because the performance wasn’t at peak. In any event, some new thoughts on the production:

- The opening storm was better than I remembered. The flaw, I now see, wasn’t in the effects but in the acting – it was, for lack of a better word, too stagy. They stood too steady and were heard too clearly above the storm, Gonzalo in particular. A dissonance crept in between the storm effects and the acting we saw, and that’s what undermined the effect. But the effects themselves were very well-executed – particularly, as I noted previously, the billowing clouds above the stage.

- Caliban was much better than I remembered from the first performance I saw, and the whole Stefano-Trinculo-Caliban plot worked better than I remembered. I think in this case it was a combination of a tighter performance and lack of preconceived notions about how Caliban should be played. I think when I saw it the first time, I wasn’t open to so innocent and childlike a Caliban – I wanted Caliban to have some genuine malice. But, knowing what I was getting the second time around, I was more open to it, and it works very well. This Caliban really is a child, a child in whom Prospero is deeply disappointed, but not really angry at. “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine” is not, in this production, a recognition by Prospero of his dark side or of his dark creation, but that Caliban is, after a fashion, his son – not a favored son, not a son in whom he holds much hope, but a kind of son nonetheless, and he’s not going to deny him at the end. And so he gives him back his island. Caliban’s apparent half-breed nature works well with this interpretation – the islanders may not be close enough to human to form a human society (though, Gonzalo avers, they seem to be more gracious and kind than civilized men) and so are never civilized by Prospero, but Caliban is half and half, and Prospero is trying to make a man of him. And I suppose an utterly alien Caliban would be the only way to do this – it would be obviously offensive if he were portrayed as a Carib. My only wish now is that there were some form of interaction between Caliban and the other islanders, that we might see how they treat him, and how he reacts to this. I would imagine he would not be welcome, that they would fear him at the least, hate him at the worst. It would give Caliban an additional dimension that I think he could still use, for all that I’ve revised my opinion of him positively. But that’s the main point: the childlike Caliban works, as a performance and more specifically in the context of this production.

My other major criticisms – of the marooned Italians from the ship and of the masque – I let stand. But on the whole I think this is a stronger production than I originally thought – indeed, a very strong production, and very worth seeing.

UPDATE: Revised the title after realizing I missed the obvious.