The Tempest ~ 2018

Martha Henry is Spellbinding as Prospero   

There is magic when Prospero raises her staff on the Festival Stage in Stratford in The Tempest.  Martha Henry in the iconic role of Prospero conjures the magic and holds our attention for over two and a half hours.

Where was the magic back on May 28, The Tempest’s opening night?  Instead of an enchanted evening, we were threatened by a bomb and the show cancelled.  But perhaps there was some good magic after all:  instead of 2000 people being injured or worse, there was no explosion, and we are all able to enjoy the thrill of The Tempest on another day.

The Tempest is a fascinating tale.  Prospero, usually a male character, conjures up a storm, which in turn shipwrecks a boat, landing a crowd of people on Prospero’s island home.  He/she then reunites with estranged family, sets everything right and helps his/her daughter find love.  Like the chess game which Miranda and Ferdinand play, strategy wins in the end.  Prospero succeeds in manipulating the circumstances so that all’s right with the world.

The magic in this production comes from Henry herself.  She commands the stage, as any Prospero should, but adds so much as a mother figure.  I had wondered if Henry would play the role as a man, or if the script would be adapted so Prospero is a woman.  Indeed, this Prospero is the Duchess of Milan.  It’s a delightful twist.  The female Prospero seems more loving and giving when it comes to daughter Miranda, and in general, less manipulative.  I enjoyed seeing the development of the mother-daughter relationship.

Mamie Zwettler’s Miranda is childlike and soft-spoken, while Sébastien Heins’ Ferdinand is cheerfully confounded by his love of Miranda.

Henry’s Prospero has a special relationship with Ariel, which, too, seems motherly.  Ariel is the fairy-like figure who is compelled to serve Prospero because of a spell cast by a witch. André Morin as Ariel challenges Prospero to set him free, much as a child bargains with his mother.

In contrast, Michael Blake is a nasty, ugly Caliban. He is fascinating as the evil character who attempts to thwart Prospero.  Tom McCamus as Stephano and Stephen Ouimette as Trinculo provide comedy, and when drunk and confused, they are bamboozled by Caliban.

Director Antoni Cimolino is enjoying a little chuckle in having Lucy Peacock, in the role of Juno, arrive in a peacock chair, surrounded by shimmering peacock-blue-green colours.  Even more spectacular are the costumes of Alexis Gordon as Ceres and Chick Reid as Iris. Their huge, colourful skirts and long trains stand out.  Special mention goes to Alexis Gordon for her beautiful singing voice.

From the opening scene of a very convincing storm and shipwreck, to all the magic moments in the play, the lighting is magnificent.  A tree is covered with the twinkling lights that slink their way up the trunk.  A giant bird and a pack of dogs are menacing with glowing red eyes. Amazing lighting tricks are used throughout, leaving me wondering how it was done.

As Prospero says, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”  This Tempest is a dream.

The Tempest continues in repertory until October 26 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.  Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca

Photo: Sébastien Heins as Ferdinand, Martha Henry as Prospero and Mamie Zwettler as Miranda in The Tempest. Photo by David Hou.

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Lighting Design by Michael Walton
Composer Berthold Carrière
Performed by Martha Henry, André Morin, André Sills, Sébastien Heins, Rod Beattie, David Collins, Graham Abbey, Stephen Ouimette, Tom McCamus, Mamie Zwettier, Michael Blake, Chick Reid, Alexis Gordon, Lucy Peacock et al.
Stratford Festival
Festival Theatre, Stratford
May 28 to October 26, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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