Modern interpretations of Shakespeare’s penultimate play The Tempest have moved away from the view of Prospero as a wise man, falsely deposed and cruel only to be kind. He’s developed into a far more ambiguous character, and it’s that aspect which Pawel Palcat emphasises in his multilingual version. Prospero has become Prospera, an androgynous dictator.
We’re in modern Europe, with a slice of the EU cake as the ultimate prize. Caliban – the British actor Graeme Brookes – is in many ways a dominant figure, not least because he speaks so many of Shakespeare’s lines in their original language. But Anna Chiara Ingrosso as a down-trodden Ariel (at one point with the Mussolini-era anthem literally forced upon her) is moving.
It’s absolutely fascinating to see how actors from other countries approach a text and their different acting styles. The physical elements in this production are very strong. Miranda is a rebellious teenager and Ferdinand a rather gawky beach boy. Yet between them they manage to make Miranda’s third act: “I am your wife, if you will marry me. If not, I’ll die your maid” into an expression of absolute truth, the most throat-catching moment of the play.
Irina Andreeva, Andrzej Janinga, Mateusz Krzyk and Simona Spirovska are the other cast members. Music plays a dominant role – not just the fascist hymn but also the “Ode to joy” from Beethoven’s ninth symphony and a whole range of commentary expressed on the piano at one corner of the stage. Premiered in Lecce (Italy) before these Colchester performances, the production travels to Skopje (Macedonia), Pazardzhik (Bulgaria) and Legnica (Poland).