Theatre Review: Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at The Old Globe

Opening night of the 2011 Shakespeare Festival at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre paid tribute in its own distinctive way to Father’s Day.  The Old Globe’s production of “The Tempest,” which runs June 19 – Sept. 22, is an array of fantastical imagery and compelling storytelling.  Generally acknowledged as Shakespeare’s final work, what lingers long after the show’s over happens not to be Shakespeare’s most famous words of ‘ado,’ but much more unexpectedly are the melodies and song that are interspersed with care throughout this magical production.

We each carry a handful of internal mementos that are unleashed later in fond recollection whenever we’ve experienced something great.  Perhaps for many on opening night, it was a winged-Ariel carrying a shaft of turquoise feathers over his shoulders, a string of spirits tap-dancing with their hands, the welding anger of a man whose very desire for vengeance knows no bounds, and a father’s immense love for his daughter that overflows and tests his heart at the same time.

Prospero is a man filled with wrath over the injustice fate has dealt him.  Laden throughout the play is an intense aura of Prospero’s vengeful spirit depicted through the sea’s untamed force, which is in turn personified through the clashing of cymbals and the thunderous beating of drums.  As the play unfolds, bit by bit we get to see how much Prospero hates his brother, Antonio, who stole his dukedom and his place in a world he so lovingly inhibited.  His hate is like venom – almost overwhelmingly so and enough to make theatergoers swoon from its almighty power.  But behind the whole premise of Prospero’s intense emotions belies a simple answer: his love for his daughter, Miranda.

And so it is through this willful justification that Prospero forges on with his plan to belittle and make miserly the existence of his opponents at all costs, even at the risk of losing the favor of his only child.  To his side to help aid Prospero in achieving these grand schemes is the spritely spirit, Ariel.  The amorous spirit desires nothing more than to possess his hard-earned freedom, and the matter is so pressing that he will do anything to gain his liberties.

But perhaps it is not to be the wish of the actual patrons of this fictional spirit to have him alter Prospero’s grievous and what appears to be towards the first half of the play, invincible anger into a flighty recollection.  What happens to transgress next seems to have happened on the mere whim of the playwright.

The moment Prospero recognizes that Ariel, a spirited being, is in fact far more human than he is; what unhinges at that moment is Prospero’s personal agenda.  Yet it can be said that the light-heartedness of the play is foreshadowed in the songs that accompany Shakespeare’s poetic verses, artfully masking this incongruity in the plot.

Adrian Noble has done a spectacular job of directing this artfully-wrought production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”  Equally commendable is the attention-grabbing, Miles Anderson as Prospero.  His commandeering presence illustrates his character’s desires for vindication.  And Anderson manages to demonstrate all this and much more – on Father’s Day Anderson is able to portray a loving parent with undeniable conviction.  Equally engaging is Ben Diskant as Ariel.  With the arduous task of convincing theatergoers of his character’s humanity alongside the magical aspect of play, Diskant is able to execute this, as well as suspend time and belief for audience members.  The monster, Caliban, played by Jonno Roberts is also very convincing as a smelly and monstrous being.  At times the members from the audience are thrown back in their seats by the grotesqueness of Roberts’ character.

Overall, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which is being staged at The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre is an all around must-see.  Tickets for the Shakespeare Festival, which runs May 29 – Sept. 25, are available by subscription and prices range from $72 to $243.  Single tickets are also available starting at $29.  Subscription packages and single tickets may be purchases online at www.TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at 619-23-GLOBE or by visiting the box office.

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