The RSC’s groundbreaking production of the Tempest breaks boundaries with the innovative use of digital technology that heightens the production’s magic.
Interestingly, shortly after Emma Rice’s departure at the Globe over a lighting row and keeping Shakespeare traditional, the RSC prove that technology can enhance Shakespeare’s narrative. The RSC have collaborated with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios in which they use a sensor-equipped suit for Ariel, and project his movements on a moving screen, to create a hologram-style effect which works exceptionally for the spirit. Although underneath the remarkable special effects, Mark Quartley is slick yet subtle in his execution of the Ariel.
Despite the impressive integration of technology, the traditional plot and hearty dialogue is at the core of the production. Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero is outstanding. He manages to capture both the sympathetic and vindictive side of the character effortlessly, and his delivery of the dialogue is clear as he uses an expressive yet natural tone. Whilst at the start of the play he appears autocratic, the audience warm to him as he embraces the other characters with forgiveness His final monologue is moving and as an audience, we restore our faith in his character.
Prospero’s relationship with his daughter Miranda is touching, and Simon Russell Beale and Jenny Rainsford portray this well. Rainsford’s brings a slightly contemporary interpretation to Miranda, as she takes her feisty lines and uses them to portray the character as a strong woman, which is something that frequently gets lost in Shakespeare’s plays. Her relationship with Ferdinand (Daniel Easton) is conveyed excellently on stage, and they use the dramatic elements of Shakespeare’s text and play on them to create light humour.
However, central humour of the production comes from the trio of Stephano (Tony Jayawardena), Trinculo (Simon Trinder) and Caliban (Joe Dixon). They are quick-witted as they perform their dialogue with exemplary comedy timing. Bouncing off each other excellently, they perform a selection of comically strong scenes , not to mention Simon Trinder’s utterly hilarious interaction with the audience.
Through the humour and the darker scenes, there are magical and ghostly moments in which the spirits litter the stage with movement and music. After Miranda and Ferdinand’s wedding, there is a compelling moment in which the spirits move dynamically around the stage as a classical three-part harmony brings exquisite colour to the production.
With this particular year being a celebration of Shakespeare, 400 years after his death, I think it is important to be interjecting the classic plays with revolutionary adaptations. I’m sure if Shakespeare was offered the latest technologies, he would grab them in a heartbeat. It’s important to keep experimenting with Shakespeare’s beautiful language and keep it fresh 400 years on.
On at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until the 21st of January, tickets can be found here.