The Tempest/Буря Oxford Playhouse 9 March

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Alonso finds himself arraigned Vyshinsky-style

 

The scenery for this production of The Tempest by Cheek by Jowl’s Russian operation comprised three panels, each with a door in it through which characters sometimes appeared.  Our Prospero (Igor Yasulovich) was a Soviet-era gaffer, while Miranda (Anya Khalilulina) was a wild young thing, as I suppose she might be, having been reared so far from polite society.  The fact that she and Ferdinand (Yan Ilves) were determined to fuck each other’s brains out as soon as they laid eyes on each other did at least make Prospero’s warnings about pre-marital intercourse seem less paranoid.  But then he was paranoid in this interpretation.

 

Ferdinand and most admired Miranda

 

We in the second row were rather worried by Miranda and Ferdinand washing with various degrees of nudity, and Ariel (Andrey Kuzichev) persecuting Trinculo (Ilya Iliin) with a watering-can.  But we escaped a wetting ourselves!

So how far did it make sense doing it in Russian.  There was  typically Russian (or indeed CbJ) unity of ensemble, and the psychology of Prospero’s absolute power made more sense than in an English-language milieu.  We had a peasant-Soviet masque that came to a sudden end with Our revels now are ended cued by the house lights going up and a worried sound engineer appearing from backstage.

 

Would-be murderers

 

We enjoyed some richly comic business at the end with Stephano (Sergey Koleshnya), Trinculo and indeed Caliban (Alexander Feklistov) as apprentice oligarchs.  Cailban managing to master a hand-held credit card reader was surely the audience’s highspot of the evening.

So where was the poetry?  Projected on screens by the sides of the stage–the surtitles (sidetitles?) showed Shakespeare’s words, and they worked very well.  The programme did not credit any translator, but the appear to have been using the 19th-century version by Mikhail Donskoy.  The element of defamiliarisation makes you see Shakespeare’s characters anew, without the  familiar comfort of  mysterious beauty.  But then that’s what he wrote and if he’d wanted to do something starker he would have used different words…

 

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One Response to “The Tempest/Буря Oxford Playhouse 9 March”

  1. Vendel Says:

    You know I’ve just enjoyed this play in Montevideo, Uruguay last night and I think it was really a great play. Shakespeare’s always up to date because of his themes; love, misery, ambitions, hate, those are things of every time and every people. The human factor remains the same, ever. I wanted to know what was it like to see a play with subtitles and I must say that ir worked very well here. The original Russian voices were very strong and effective and gave a lot to the play. The cast was excellent. I enjoyed a lot with those anachronic scenes showing Trinculo appearing through a door with a lot of bags, sunglasses and then amazed by a mobile phone he found in his Italian style suit. Absolutely enjoyable.
    To sum up, the play was great because WS himself was great writing about human nature. This has always been the secret of his success, no matter what language you hear it. Men an women are always the same, everywhere.

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