Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Source: Speak the Speech (Act I | II | III |IV| V )
Length: 2 hours
Readers: Cast directed by Cynthia McGean

The play: Opening in a great storm at sea, The Tempest is a play that's easy enough to enjoy from the beginning, but has the depth and power suggested by its name. The plot is rather simple: Prospero, the former duke of Milan,  has escaped to after his brother led a coup against him with the support of the King of Naples. Years later, Prospero summons a magical storm to ensnare the boat of his enemies. The remainder of the play consists of Prospero using magic to solve all of his own problems and foil the plots of the villains.

Yet underneath the simplistic solutions lie more problems. Is Prospero a hero or is his manipulation of those around him a troubling sign of a dark character? Is his punishment the malformed island native Caliban deserved or is Caliban the victim the oppression? Thought to be the last of Shakespeare's plays, it's apparent that the Bard sees a part of himself in the magician as he says farewell to the stage: "As you from crimes would pardon'd be, / Let your indulgence set me free."

Rating: 8 / 10

The readers: This is a full cast production with attendant sound effects and music. The sound effects are not overdone, but I found the twinkling chimes that signify Prospero's magic to be rather trite. The music is nicely performed and uses processed vocal effects to give an otherworldly feel to the fairy songs. The actors, particularly Prospero, Caliban, and Antonio, give a great performance, but it can sometimes be difficult to discern who is speaking what lines. For this reason and for the understanding of uncommon words, I recommend that listeners follow along with the text of the play. This version of the play is unabridged, Speak the Speech also offers an abridged one-hour version for download as well.

(Entered in Cym Lowell's Book Review Wednesdays)

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