The Tempest performed by the Savage Rose Theater Company is a classical period drama performance of the Shakespearean classic. It is a faithful adaptation of the text and its themes. The company’s portrayal of The Tempest is a creative and organic product that puts the focus on character development using stagecraft.
There was no elaborate set design and effects in this performance. Similar to Shakespearean times, the stage had no set pieces in most cases. The stage was even set up as an amateur theater with stacks of books in the background. It consisted of a lower level, that had most of the primary action. Small steps led to an upper level of the stage that was used for elements of the play. The actors utilize the set design for entrances and to emphasize certain character traits and actions. For example, in the beginning, Prospero stands upon the upper level as we see him as a figure of power and magic. In other scenes, the small staircases are used for characters to lean on in a relaxing posture of joyful conversation.
It could be seen that this production is low-budget. In essence, performances of this scale are focused on acting quality and relaying the story to the audience in an authentic manner. Lighting was mostly unchanged, except at the beginning when the dark emphasized a stormy night. Also, scenes with Ariel’s illusions were given a lighting effect. Sound design had some noticeable effects, as Ariel’s voice was modified during some scenes.
The Tempest has a very diverse range of characters, and the production strongly focuses on characterization through dialogue and some aspects of costuming. Most characters are dressed in a simple Renaissance Italian style, with the clothing signifying their status. Caliban, described as a disgusting creature, is portrayed by a man wearing a webbed bodysuit. It creates the half-man, half-monster effect, which is an extension of his personality.
Ariel in the script is a female spirit, but a young man portrays the spirit here. His light costume and heavy makeup make him look fairy-like and unnatural. These costumes and the mannerisms of most characters were the most enjoyable part of the production. The lack of significant effects combined with acting that felt forced and unorthodox to the characterization made the performance difficult to watch (Savagerosetheater, 2014).
The overall feel of the play was simplistic and amateur. Some productions have dramatic elements and gravitas of Shakespeare’s greatest plays in similar raw stage conditions. However, it can be argued that historically, that is how The Tempest has been and was intended to be performed. This specific production generally relates that magical, mysterious tone of Prospero’s island that Shakespeare intended. Meanwhile, the comedic mood is felt throughout the performance.
While there are scenes where that is fitting, the dramatic instances seem laughable due to inconsistency. Some parts of the play were easier to understand, such as the shipwreck and Ariel’s illusions, mostly due to lighting and more dramatic acting. During many scenes of extended dialogue, it was easy to get lost in the plot. There were very few noticeable indicators of proper scene transitions and stage blocking. In theatrical canon, this play is common for adaptations, allowing for liberty in portrayals of characters and a platform to experiment with visual effects. However, at its core, the play seeks to explore various philosophical questions of human nature that can only be approached through the cast (Loehlin, 2015).
Shakespearean plays are probably the most popular productions in the Western theater. The cultural impact that the playwright made on the English language and dramaturgy is unparalleled. Many of Shakespeare’s themes of human interaction and power are relevant in modern society. Meanwhile, productions both professional and amateur serve as a creative outlet for all age groups (“The cultural evolution of theater,” 2017). The time and dedication that went into this classical performance of The Tempest is an indicator of the significant cultural value that theater still holds in the modern digital world.
Loehlin, N. J. (2015). Shakespeare in performance: “The Tempest” by Virginia Mason Vaughan (review). Shakespeare Quarterly, 66(2), pp. 241-244. Web.
Savagerosetheater. (2014). The Tempest – Full play [Video file]. Web.
The cultural evolution of theater. (2017). Web.