Posts Tagged ‘Cheek by Jowl’

The Tempest/Буря Oxford Playhouse 9 March

March 10, 2011



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…