Photo credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/mar/18/the-tempest-review
Sticking with the RSC, way back in March this year, I went to the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, to see The Tempest, which was a collaboration between the RSC and Little Angel Theatre. The production was billed as "an unforgettable introduction to Shakespeare for anyone aged 7+" and was directed by Peter Glanville. The images in this post are from that production and feature Caliban.
To briefly summarise my reaction to the production. I thought that these were, without a shadow of a doubt, the most impressive puppets and the best and most innovative puppetry techniques that I had experienced since War Horse. I loved the use of music and songs in the production. I loved the fact that they really made the production very funny indeed, and that they majored on comedy and laughter. I loved the way they made it very interactive and participative so that the children could get involved with the production. All the children I saw, watching the production when I saw it, loved it. But most of all what I loved about the production was that they used Shakespeare's language. They did not dumb it down, or make it "street", or urban or hip or cool. They used Shakespeare's text and language without compromising one iota. All the children there were able to engage with, follow and understand the piece, because they were using music, songs and humour. I loved this production to pieces and took it straight to my heart.
Moving onto the character of Caliban. I am writing now, not about this production, but about the character of Caliban in general. As with Shylock, I have always felt a certain empathy with Caliban. Caliban is actually the rightful ruler of the enchanted isle and, seen through Caliban's eyes, he has suffered great injustice at the hands of Prospero. For me, Caliban is not, and should not in this day and age, be portrayed as a monster. The audience should feel empathy for Caliban and his plight, just as you should for Shylock in the Merchant of Venice.
Caliban represents all colonised peoples, all outsiders, all aliens, all society's outcasts, and anyone who does not feel for Caliban must have a heart made of stone.
I will close with a key Caliban speech, one that will resonate with all colonised peoples, and then with a final image from the production.
Act 1 Scene 2
I must eat my dinner.
This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show'd thee all the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o' the island.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/littleangeltheatre/sets/72157626215309007/