A FILMED VERSION OF THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL PRODUCTION WILL BE BROADCAST TO 565 MOVIE THEATERS NATIONWIDE ON JUNE 14 AT 7:00 P.M
BY HENRY EDWARDS
In the summer of 2010, Christopher Plummer, one of the English speaking world's most respected and honored actors, took to the stage of Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival to portray Prospero in Des McAnuff's production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Over a two-day period, the performance was captured live by ten cameras, resulting in a beautifully rendered record of a stirring theatrical event.
On June 14 at 7:00 p.m, audiences all over the country will be able to see this version of “The Tempest” when it is broadcast to 565 movie theaters.
Treating the play with enormous affection and respect, McAnuff has staged an exceedingly clear, dramatically sound, often funny reading of the text with Plummer standing center stage in all his glory radiating wisdom, compassion and majesty.
For those few who may not know it, the play tells a fairly straightforward story revolving around an unjust act.
For 12 years, Prospero, the former Duke of Milan (Plummer), has been marooned on a remote island with his young daughter, Miranda (Trish Lindström). Father and daughter arrived there after being cast out to sea by a group of conspirators led by Prospero’s brother, Antonio (John Vickery), who was determined to usurp the dukedom. Prospero has spent his exile cultivating magical arts and establishing his rule over the island’s other inhabitants, the semi-human Caliban (Dion Johnstone) and the spirit Ariel (Julyana Soelistyo).
Now he has used his powers to raise a storm, causing a vessel carrying Antonio, Alonso, King of Naples (Peter Hutt) and other members of their court – including Alonso’s son, Ferdinand (Gareth Potter) – to be shipwrecked on the same island. Separated from the rest of his party and believing his father to be dead, Ferdinand is taken by Ariel to Prospero’s cell, where he and Miranda fall in love. After putting Ferdinand to a test of his sincerity, Prospero gives the couple his blessing and presents a masque in celebration of their union.
Alll of Prospero's enemies are now at his mercy. Instead of exacting revenge, however, Prospero renounces his magical powers and allows himself to be reconciled at last with those who have wronged him, giving the play an exceedingly happy ending.
Written in late 1610 or 1611, “The Tempest,” is believed to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote on his own.
Scholars classify the play as one of Shakespeare's four “late romances,” plays that mingle comedy and tragedy with elements of the fantastic and the supernatural.
Famously considered the playwright's response to the Jacobean masque, "The Tempest" provides a compelling mix of song, dance and spectacle, including the opening storm at sea which literally and crucially affects the lives and actions of all the characters, the appearance of various spirits and a magically produced banquet, elements that combine to provide the play with an hypnotic, magical atmosphere.
McAnuff's production, staged on the Stratford's huge thrust stage, wisely concentrates on language and not excessive theatrrical effects. As theatre and as film, this "Tempest" is legitimately impressive.
The production also does a terrific job of visualizing the relationship between a master and his servant, especially in the case of Prospero and Ariel who hungers for his freedom, and of dramatizing the nature of forgiveness.
At the end of the play, Prospero forgives each and every enemy, releases his slaves, and relinquishes his magic power, and you believe him.
For many, the person who is left on stage really is Shakespeare, himself, preparing to retire and reliquishing his powers as playwright and poet.
And let it be said again: Christopher Plummer is marvelous in those concluding moments and throughout the play.
Seeing the movie is the next best thing to having been at Stratford in the first place.