It is difficult to condense an experience of an excellent production by the illustrious Adrian Noble, Artistic Director of The Old Globe’s 2011 Shakespeare Festival and director of The Tempest. This production is beyond entertainment, leaving lasting memories and inspiration.
Comments from the actors about Noble’s vision have a common theme of collectiveness. Adrian Sparks (Stephano) explains that the actors were expected to come as craftspeople, not as subjects for a tutorial. The actors express freedom upon working with Noble. The Director invited most of last year’s acting company, having extreme appreciation for a “highly motivated group of actors supported and inspired by our very special MFAs,” Noble writes in the Performances magazine.
Ben Diskant, one of the MFAs in The Old Globe/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Program, has the huge part of devout Ariel. He stands out with his singing in this season’s Much Ado About Nothing, and he enchants the audience in The Tempest, captivating them with his graceful approach, bedtime-fairytale singing and eagerness to please. Miles Anderson is a forgiving Prospero and interesting on and off stage. He says he started studying the meaning of Prospero’s words back in October/November and does not like rehearsing with the book. Many may not know that the three shows in the festival are rehearsed consecutively and many of the repertory have major parts in all three shows, such as Winslow Corbett, who is Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, Miranda in The Tempest and Constanze Weber in Amadeus. Mind blowing as it may be, it is a willing challenge. As Corbett says smiling, looking up with receiving arms, “It’s a wonderful problem to have!” Anderson agrees that he is happy to have so much work— deservingly he received a Craig Noel Award from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle for his portrayal of King George III in last year’s The Madness of George III, which he filled last minute due to another actor’s prior commitment. The arrangement allowed Anderson and Noble to work together once again, having worked together at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
So many things stood out in the music, scenic design and costuming that there is too much to tell; the event should be experienced rather than spoiled. Anderson describes Shaun Davey’s pre-recorded, original music as “cinematic,” which sounds electronic with an occasional strumming of the harp. Prospero (Anderson) and Ariel (Diskant) enter with thematic music that is just as cool as when Darth Vader walks with his own music. Dan Moses Schreier is the sound designer along with Charlie Reuter as music director.
Ralph Funicello’s scenic design, as minimalist as it is with only instruments in the rafters, accentuates the wood stage, with real eucalyptus trees. The design make use of the best trick in the stage—the trap—allowing for a grand entrance for the mariners. One of the audience-pleasers is a huge piece of azure blue silk that four spirits use to create serene waves.
Costuming, too, is about minimalism, inspired by color. Deirdre Clancy, costume designer, has a triad of colors with blue being the symbolic color. Diskant is a dreamy spirit with neon, spiked blue hair, sculpted chest and an airy blue wrap low on his hips. He later appears with huge wings that are somewhat iridescent and translucent. Anderson, a Prospero who has been on an island far too long, has hair to his shoulders with a blue robe left open and loose fitting cotton pants. There is one over-the top costume that takes one hour to put on, that one being the ugly monster’s, Caliban. Jonno Roberts, who plays the deformed slave, usually looks so debonair as the leading man in Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew, but not this time. Who knew he could look so ugly while seeming to enjoy all the fun?
With intermittent applause and a standing ovation, Noble’s fancied interpretation of The Tempest is simple yet complex, imperturbable yet chaotic, clear and yet questioning, using Shakespeare as his muse.