Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Drizzly tempest

Took kids to watch "The Tempest" by The Bridge Project. Mel wanted so badly for the kids to like their first experience watching Shakespeare performed 'live', but was disappointed that this version didn't quite capture their imaginations.

I will say the play had its moments -- lots of them. The comedy was spot-on with timing and characterization, the romance scenes were sweet, the evil plotting scenes were clearly sinister and I enjoyed them all. But the exposition scenes somehow didn't have the same level of energy in them. I know I nodded off from time to time because despite the fact that these scenes are meant to glue all the different elements of this difficult play together, the audience shouldn't be made to feel like they're watching the glue dry.

For me, I saw this production as a collection of brilliant vignettes that were related more or less sequentially, but missing a powerful thread that ties them all together coherently.

But knowing the state I'm in healthwise, I also knew my fatigue would kick in at some point and I was expecting to knock out occasionally. So I wasn't really looking for a coherent story as Mel was.

I was there to steal ideas for tech and staging, and I was not disappointed. It was a large stage divided in half such that upstage was completely flooded with maybe a half-inch of water, downstage was completely dry. Upstage served as the holding area for the actors who were not involved in the scene being played out downstage. They sat on a chair each, immobile, lights down, but because of their proximity to the play area they were ready to go when they were needed.

Downstage, the play area focused on a central circular sand pit. A fantastic device it was for representing the world, an external location, the spirit realm, the concepts of reality and imagination, and an external location observed from an internal location like images in a crystal ball in a fortune-teller's tent. So versatile!

The presence of 'live' music and hand-crafted on-the-spot sound effects reminded me of MU days. The music was haunting and really added to the organic nature of the magic that was supposed to weave through the whole play.

So yes, there were many magical elements that the play offered, lots of promise of thunder and wonder to be wielded by a skilled and powerful wizard inspiring shock and awe in the audience. But what came out in the end was somewhat more understated. The pace and skill perhaps, of a gardener tending the rhododendrons rather than Gandalf in mortal combat against the Balrog. What it could have been.

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