This past Friday we went to see the Actors from the London Stage put on a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with our friend Rachel.
Both of us have a fondness for Shakespeare, and I appreciated the fact that The Tempest is not as commonly done as say, A Midsummer Nights Dream or Romeo and Juliet. Plus, I’ve always loved anything fantastical and the whole concept of being on a magical deserted island with a sorcerer is pretty freakin’ cool.
The play was excellent – the actors were all very strong but also, able to create a distinctness between their parts (as there were five of them splitting the roles between them). What I also enjoyed was that the context left much to the imagination. The actors wore limited clothing (and from where we sat – just beyond the edge of the stage- limited make up as well) and there was no scenery, only the occasional sound effect from a megaphone, or pre-recorded tape.
So while this post was initially to describe an enjoyable theatre experience, I suppose I’ll now broaden it to include my growing appetite for minimalism and continuing preference for the imaginative.
Now don’t get me wrong, in June while in NYC, I went with friends to see Spiderman on Broadway. Despite the taste of critics and the jeering of late-night talk show hosts, I actually enjoyed the show but it was, in every way, the complete opposite of the Tempest – pyrotechnics and a host of special effects (Spiderman was at one point, suspended over the lower level seats – not just the orchestra seats, the whole lower level), elaborate flashy scenery with lots of nods to the comics which inspired the story, the score crafted by U2 with its characteristic rock melodies…
As I said, I like Spiderman. Did I feel profoundly moved or pensive after the show? No, but I was thoroughly entertained.
However, what I appreciated about The Tempest was its ability to:
1) Bring Shakespearean English (and thus all the colloquialisms and cultural proclivities) to life
2) Communicate meaning with little pomp and circumstance
3) Entertain in an intellectually stimulating way
My little life in Austin, TX is just a glimmer in the great time and space of the universe, so it’s nice to know that actors from London with a passion for Shakespeare can share their love and craft in my neck of the woods, and that they can do so in a way that invites me both to suspend my reality, reacquaint myself with history, and experience joy.
If you’ve never seen the Actors from the London Stage, I highly recommend them.
Check them out here:
Do you enjoy Shakespeare? What about plays with little in the way of backdrop or props?