The Tempest: RSC 2016-17 Season (potentially useful for AO5)

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·       The play is the first use of “live motion capture” in a major classical production. Mark Quartley, playing Ariel, wears a body suit that is sensor-equipped and so able to transpose his movements into a computer-generated avatar that flits around in real time. The digital wizardry allows, for example, Alonso’s body to seem to shatter to pieces in Ferdinand’s imagination while Ariel sings “full fathom five”, and the faces of hideously fanged dogs to be flashed onto the tabors of the spirits so that the pack seems to be coming at Caliban and his terrified drunken cohorts from all directions in 4.1.255-265

·       Joe Dixon is a sad and rather sensitive Caliban with severe curvature of the spine that has formed on the outside of his back. 

·       When Ariel experimentally asks “Do you love me, master?” Simon Russell Beale's Prospero is completely disarmed, as if no one has ever asked him this simple question before and he is forced to cover his tear-stained face with his hand.

·       The “mine would sir, were I human” moment is very much played as Prospero’s moral turning point- after the line and before the “and mine shall” response, Russell Beale lets out a series of agonised cries expressing inner turmoil and the difficulty of his decision to grant mercy

·       Towards the end of the play, around lines 5.291-5, Prospero breaks his staff over his knee, which becomes the wood he gives to Caliban to carry. Caliban then hesitates over the staff, as though deciding whether to use its power against his old master, and the two actors hold each other’s eye. Caliban then seems to takes a decision to “seek for grace.” The staff becomes meaningless wood like the other pieces carried by Caliban and Ferdinand earlier in the play

·       Ariel also hesitates before taking his freedom just before the epilogue, as though making clear to the audience that he is also losing something by the end of this relationship. Thus the servitude theme is one of complex emotions for both Ariel and Caliban in this production (contrast the 1993 RSC production in which Simon Russell Beale, playing Ariel, spat at Alec McGowan’s Prospero before leaving the stage in the same production.)