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The Tempest

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
If there is one important thing highlighted in Andy Arnold's new
production of Shakespeare's tale of shipwreck, magic and exile, it is
who the real monsters are in Prospero's self-appointed kingdom. In a
production presented in association with Royal Conservatoire Scotland
for the Tron's Mayfesto season that focuses on colonisation and the
spoken word, Caliban's enslavement is put to the fore, however kindly
her master may look on her, while Aerial is treated more like a pet.

In a punky-looking  production in which both Prospero and Miranda sport
elaborately bouffanted blonde barnets, Prospero is an over-protective
father and slave-master, while Gonzalo is an old-school toff mourning
the death of a dog eat dog empire which even abroad rears its predatory
nature. Trinculo and Stephano are akin to a pair of Ealing Comedy spivs
who would sell off London Bridge to American tourists, and are quite
prepared to exploit Caliban for their own ends, even as they ply her
with illicit hooch.

Set on the wooden platforms of Hazel Blue's set against a vivid blue
backdrop, this is a fascinating approach, and one which Arnold's
ten-strong post-graduate ensemble relish. While there may be no denying
the presence of colonial concerns in the text, as with many conceptual
approaches to Shakespeare, it is invariably over-ridden by the story
itself Arnold's solution is to top and tail the show with the opening
and closing speeches of Caribbean writer Aime Cesaire's own,
politically driven version of The Tempest.

While the prologue provides a framing device that heightens the play's
theatricality, Caliban's closing speech about the meaning of freedom
puts Prospero's own final gestures in the shade in a vibrant and
thought-provoking provocation.

The Herald, May 12th 2014


ends

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