Monday, 29 July 2013
Theatre review: Indian Tempest (Footsbarn / Globe to Globe)
At least that's technically the case; in practice the script is almost entirely Shakespeare's English, the occasional speech performed in the actors' mother tongues. And this is, I think, the point where I couldn't get into this at all. The Indian parts work but the Tempest side of things leaves much to be desired.
Part of the fun of the Globe to Globe seasons has been seeing Shakespeare's works given a different spin by another country's theatrical traditions and requirements, appropriating the plays to create something completely new while still maintaining a kernel that's unmistakably Shakespeare at the heart of things. And Indian Tempest didn't feel like that to me. I have a feeling that, had it been performed entirely in one of the Indian languages, the over-the-top acting style complete with huge gestures, face-pulling, declamatory line-readings and masks would have seemed par for the course, but seeing and hearing it applied to the original verse took me right out of the experience. I think this may be one of those cases, though, where the problem lies with me rather than the production (I still can't decide if dressing Haris 'Haka' Resic's Ferdinand as Captain Jack Sparrow is hilarious or just baffling,) as the audience tonight went crazy for it.
There's some absolutely electric moments I loved, like the haunted banquet with its visual nods to Spirited Away, a wedding masque built around Indian dance that's one of the rare cases where that scene actually succeeds in being entertaining, and a final sequence where Paddy Hayter's Caliban refuses to abuse the power of ruling the island like his predecessor did. I didn't like that Pillai's Prospero was very much the outdated model of the kindly old sorcerer, even as he uses his magic to strike his daughter we're not invited to judge him; but this cuddly reading does make the judgement implied by this new postscript more pointed. Unfortunately outside of these outstanding moments I was simply bored by a production whose inventiveness doesn't stretch that much further than the visuals.
Indian Tempest by William Shakespeare is booking in repertory until the 3rd of August at Shakespeare's Globe.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.