Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Tempest in a Multi-plex

Christopher Plummer conjures a tempest
I have a friend who has season's tickets to a series of filmed entertainments (concerts, plays, operas) running one and two-night only at the local multiplex. Last night he treated me to a filmed performance of The Tempest staged by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with Christopher Plummer as Prospero.  I don't know if this is a one-time only thing (the Festival's site notes that the movie will be playing on June 14, and no other dates) but if you love Shakespeare, you owe it to yourself to hunt this production down.
The Tempest is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. I love the spectacle of it--the sea storm, the fanciful interpretations of Ariel and Caliban, the fabulous language. "You really  like this play don't you?" my friend said, which was my first clue I was saying some of the lines out loud along with the actors.
Christopher Plummer is the best Prospero I've ever seen and I've seen some Prosperos. Anthony Hopkins played the role here in L.A. opposite Stephanie Zimbalist as Miranda. Ellis Rabb starred in a production he also directed at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. The set, I remember, was a beach with several huge seashells scattered about. Rabb played the magician in a very patrician manner that was interesting but not engaging. Plummer's performance was ... magical. 
Soelistyo and Plummer plot
I was a little leery of the idea of a filmed play--I've seen some really static ones. And in the opening storm sequence, the sound was really muffled and muddy, which made my heart sink. But once everyone was on the island, those technical issues faded away. And let's just say, filming a play has come a long way since the days my father was recording that production of The Fantasticks from half a mile away in a school gymnasium.
The Tempest was part of the Stratford's season a few years ago (I think Plummer did King Lear last year) and I've always wanted to  go up there for a week and see as many productions as I can. This season they're doing Henry V, everybody's favorite history play, Much Ado About Nothing (my favorite comedy) and Cymbeline, which I can't even remember, although I know I read it.
This version of The Tempest was directed by Des McAnuff.
I really liked McAnuff's conception of Ariel. The tricksy spirit was played by tiny (4'10") Julyana Soelistyo  whose naughty giggle was a reminder that spirits aren't human and find different things funny. (McAnuff definitely played up the humor in the text and made the most of the subplot involving Caliban and the two comic drunkards, Trinculo and Stephano.)
Geraint Wyn Davies played Stephano and he was so hilarious I wish I'd seen him playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream when it played in rep. If you caught his turn as  pompous Shakespearean actor Henry Breedlove on the wonderful show Slings and Arrows, you have some idea of what he can do.  The man was born to speak Shakespeare and not everyone in the company was up to his and Plummer's level. (The young woman playing Miranda, for instance, sounded like she'd learned her lines phonetically at times.)
I haven't seen the Julie Taymore version of The Tempest starring Helen Mirren, but now I have to go track it down. Because really, can you think of a better way to spend a few hours?


  1. We are seeing Plummer in a one-man show at Stratford this year. He's a mainstay there.

  2. I'm so jealous. I've got a big birthday this year and wanted to do something special. It was either Stratford or Bouchercon and I went with Cleveland.