Most helpful positive review
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An intense, revelatory production
on February 27, 2010
This 1982 production of The Tempest comes from Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
John Hirsch's production is traditional in some respects and somewhat untraditional in others. In many productions, Prospero is played from the beginning as if he's already forgiven his enemies. Not here. At first Len Cariou's Prospero seems more concerned with vengeance than forgiveness. He is a figure alternately majestic and tormented, noble and petty, obsessed with the wrongs that have been done to him and, with the spectre of death looming, haunted by all the time he's lost and how little time he has left.
This Prospero is a flawed man and therefore he is someone in whom we can see ourselves, someone filled with conflicting impulses, so that when he finally chooses forgiveness, it is deeply moving.
Adding to the richness of the production is the relationship between Prospero and Ariel (the wonderful Ian Deakin), more emotional than in any other production I've seen.
Then there's Miles Potter's marvelously physical, pitiable, confused, defiant Caliban; John Jarvis's endearing Trinculo, who is much abused by Nicholas Pennell's especially sadistic Stephano; Jim Mezon's tender Ferdinand; Sharry Flett's gutsy Miranda, very much her father's daughter; and Richard Curnock's sorrowful Alonso. There are also fine supporting performances from the rest of the cast, though (let's face it) these are the best roles.
As with many Stratford productions, the production is scenically simple, but in one of the more traditional aspects of the productions, Desmond Heeley's costumes stunningly realize the "masque" aspects of the play. Stanley Silverman's music is most effective, even more so on a second viewing.
On the debit side, some of the staging is a little awkward and a couple of offbeat directorial choices don't pay off all that well.
Overall, this is an exceptional production of "The Tempest." We are lucky that it was preserved. I'm sorry that it seems to no longer be commercially available. I hope that it does again become available as it deserves a wider audience, as do some of the other Stratford productions that were televised in the 1980s and have been intermittently available on video.