memories of the tempest.
I always seem to end up on the same side of the stage in the Courtyard Theatre. For productions of Hamlet, Love's Labours Lost & The Tempest in the past six months, I have been placed in the same place give or take five seats. Figure in that these are the only times that I have sat in the stalls in this space, and one starts to think that Aisle 7 is becoming 'Tom's Aisle'. I like it from there: you don't have a front-on view (so you get a slightly less expensive ticket) but you feel in extremely close proximity to the play.
I thought that the Baxter Theatre Centre production of The Tempest, which I saw this evening, is excellent and really rather beautiful by the by. The wedding celebration/performance - conjured by Prospero for his newly married daughter, Miranda, and Ferdinand, the Prince she has met just hours previous - was a thing of wonder that combined dancing, singing and puppets of giant, dancing figures. At first, every time a new element was brought to the party, Ferdinand, perched on a tree stump next to his new wife, looked shocked and genuinely afraid (Miranda, on the other hand, is used to her father's antics, and was delighted but not unsettled). The production is full of moments of imaginative and inventive beauty such as this, which struck me, like Ferdinand, as pure magic.
Anthony Sher is a conflicted Prospero of ugliness and tenderness. When he recounts to Miranda the story of how they arrived on the arid island, Sher paced in angled lines through centre-stage. He was hunched and frequently swivelling, to embody a twisted sense of built-up aggression at his enemies, and guilt at not having told Miranda before. He was restless, and just a little bit vulnerable. I found his caring attitude towards Miranda really quite touching. I was also sorry to have missed the detail of Sher's delivery of the key soliloquy in which he ponders how to treat his captured enemies. I was admiring the wonderful lighting effect, which created something like a wall of light around Sher and then immediately doubled up as a figurative prison for the Royal party.
John Kani's face has been through a lot. He wears experience of post-colonialism and apartheid; it is an honour to come into contact with such experience. For me, this is what made the final spotlight on him - after Prospero's final lines which act as an apology - so powerful, it brings us into contact with experience. It is also an ambiguous note; Kani's Caliban doesn't know how to react in the moment, and how he will react is only up for speculation.
I was also touched by Miranda's innocent joy and curiosity, also beautifully played. Some moments to mark a lovely solo outing. The trains from Stratford to Leamington are ridiculous - I waited 80 minutes on the platform. I read the programme cover-to-cover, but didn't have the energy to crack on with The Golden Bowl.