Last Wednesday evening, Year 12 Sidcot English Literature students were mercilessly cast adrift in a minibus to the remote and mysterious realm of Wells Film Centre to see The RSC’s live screen showing of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
After a brief sojourn in several inns of ill-repute, braving cutpurses, knaves, rogues and strumpets (not really, ‘twas yon Olde Kebabbe Shoppe, across the road), our learned critics and buffs settled in their seats to witness a startling performance.
Gregory Doran’s direction and the collaboration with tech-wizards Intel and The Imaginarium (of Andy Serkis fame) provided an unprecedented spectacle, particularly with the Masque, which was all the rage when Shakespeare first had the play performed in 1610. From Ariel’s sensor-infested suit, to transformative projection techniques and lighting, there were some impressive moments to be had: Ariel’s imprisonment in a ‘cloven pine’; Ariel’s harpy scene; the operatic masque with goddesses singing in harmony; a textured, mirrored floor that shifted from cool, damp forest to a cracked and seething volcanic landscape; lowered netting with projected drowning sailors sinking through the cerulean depths. The concern was always going to be how much would all this ‘tech’ impinge upon the quality and power of the actors’ performance. Was this a triumph of style over substance?
Animated post-screening debates filled the minibus on the way home. Eloquent soliloquies had educated young minds about ‘virtue and vengeance’, compassion and abuse of power. A poignant and balanced meditation on control, power and influence and what we should do with it, The Tempest provoked much reflection and valuable analysis for Year 12 who will be writing about this set text in their A Level exams in 2018.
Teacher of English
Image credit: RSC