The Tempest (Stormen), presented by the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, November 19, 2010.
Neil Forsyth and Anna Swärdh
University of Lausanne and University of Karlstad
Neil Forsyth and Anna Swärdh, "Review of The Tempest (Stormen), presented by the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, November 19, 2010." EMLS 16.1 (2012): 18. http://purl.org/emls/16-1/revtemp.htm
Translated by Britt G. Hallqvist and Claes Schaar. Directed by John Caird. Choreography: Pär Isberg. Scenography and costume: David Farley. Lighting: Torben Lendorph. Wigs and masks: Peter Westerberg, Sofia Ranow Boix Vives. Assistant direction: Mikael Berg. With Stina Ekblad (Ariel), Örjan Ramberg (Prospero), Jonas Karlsson (Caliban), Jonas Bergström (Antonio), Christoffer Svensson (Ferdinand), Sofia Pekkari (Miranda), Magnus Ehrner (Sebastian), Claes Månsson (Alonzo), Per Mattsson (Gonzales), Hans Klinga (Stefano), Daniel Nyström (Franscisco), Davood Tafvizian (Adrian) and Per Mattsson (Trinculo).
- As you enter the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, you can pause just outside to warm your hands on the body of a famous actress, Margaretha Krook, or rather on her statue. This felt good on the raw November evening when we went to see Shakespeare in Swedish. But in fact, so enjoyable was the play that we soon warmed our hands inside this historic auditorium.
- The Tempest is full of magic, and so was this production. The magic began from the first scene in which we saw Prospero telling Ariel to raise the storm. As a spotlight struck each of the crew, till then seated in the onstage audience, they rose and enacted the swaying ship on stage, each controlled by one of a team of spirits. Ariel was brilliantly played by a well-known Swedish actress now in her fifties (Stina Ekblad), and indeed she and Prospero often seemed like a long-married couple, in their quarrels and in their complicity.
- Prospero, an equally well-known actor (Örjan Ramberg), wore a grey cardigan reminiscent of John Barton, but in Sweden the trademark of Ingmar Bergman. He was represented as directing the final scene of his script for the play, but not altogether sure how it would come out. The script was clearly to be the most important of Prospero’s books. The cardigan contrasted with the garishly colourful garments from his cave (‘the trumpery in my house’). These were eventually stretched on a clothes-line across the stage to seduce Stephano and Trinculo from their plot, much to Caliban’s disgust.
- Any production of The Tempest needs a coherent link of staging ideas for the range from comic to almost tragic action. Some of the audience here was seated behind the action so that the plain wooden stage became more obviously an island, a confined space where the intense drama could unfold. The villains, Sebastian and Antonio (Magnus Ehrner and Jonas Bergström), elegantly dressed in expensive period costumes (like the ones Prospero had discarded) over their contemporary suits and shirts, were so convincing that the audience was rapt by the suspense throughout the dialogue about assassinating the sleeping Alonso. The comedy too was brilliantly done, with one line of the tipsy and rather simple Trinculo (Per Mattsson) made to quote directly the current Swedish king’s stunned response to the recent adultery accusations — a topical allusion that got the biggest laugh of the evening. Stephano (Hans Klinga, yet another well-known actor who has a brilliant Antonio in The Merchant of Venice to his credit), danced and sang and drank, all with the tremulous elegance of an alcoholic. Gonzalo (Carl-Magnus Dellow), dressed in a warm and dark red coat, was instantly loveable, as he should be, for his utopia speech; the contrast with the cynical courtiers’ comments that enhances his attractiveness was carefully sustained.
- The masque that celebrates the betrothal of Miranda and Ferdinand was given a full and wonderful performance, as if for an elaborate children’s show: Ceres and Iris entered and moved about on stilts fantastically robed, and then a brilliant and enormous model Juno appeared at the back of the stage. The masque included a moment when a few members of the on-stage audience were invited to join the dance — reinforcing the sense of an experimental production which ran through the whole play. Prospero, for example, broke his pen, not his magic staff near the end.
- The harpy scene was also spectacular: Ariel flew in and swooped menacingly about the playing space. Indeed, so much did Ariel dominate the stage with her various illusions and scenic presence that the production risked undermining Caliban (Jonas Karlsson). This Caliban, however, held his own: he was no ‘monster’ but a darkly handsome young man with a Byronic limp.
- The tense, sexually charged scenes with Miranda constitute a serious challenge to the blond Ferdinand (Christoffer Svensson) — like many of Shakespeare’s young heroes always a difficult role. One sign of the success of this production was that Svensson managed to capture Miranda’s and the audience’s attention and keep the romantic scenes from collapsing as they often do.
- Music is vital in this play, and the production made good use of Beethoven. The final scene was heralded by the calm after the storm from the Pastoral Symphony; a corny idea, perhaps, but in this magical context it worked brilliantly. Indeed the whole production, with its intelligent and often spectacular use of dance as well as music, perhaps for the first time in our experience, did full justice to this wonderful play.
Responses to this piece intended for the
Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editors at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2012-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).