(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/2; via Pam Green; Revelatory … Alex Kingston as Prospero. Photograph: Ikin Yum.)
Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Climate catastrophe and power struggles dominate Elizabeth Freestone’s RSC interpretation of Shakespeare’s play
If there were prizes for inventive recycling of props, this RSC staging would get the soup-tin statuette. Oil drums are rolled to illustrate anecdotes, drunkards quaff from petrol cans and Ariel’s flute is twisted together from plumbing pipes.
Such post-industrial stuff scatters Prospero’s island due to a climate event; the clothes are 21st century but the shipwrecked King of Naples and his entourage use sailing boats because wind is the only fuel left. With references to “the quality of the climate” and “mutinous winds”, The Tempest sustains director Elizabeth Freestone’s contemporary interpretation with little strain, helped by the opening storm being made by man.
Or, in this version, woman. Alex Kingston’s Prospero, though still an exiled “duke” of Milan, is mother to a daughter. This affects the text, neutralising Shakespeare’s “farther” puns and forcing recounts in Miranda’s lines about how many men she saw before Sebastian, while Prospero’s rather creepy concern with the security of Miranda’s hymen feels unlikely from a bohemian modern mother.