Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Tempest on Fire

I am one of those people who loved studying Shakespeare at school but I've never really been a fan of the films that have been made - whether it's a modern adaption or in the classic style.  It makes me a bit hesitant about watching any Shakespearean Play performed at all - although I loved going to the Globe to watch something (don't ask me what it was, it was like Romeo & Juliet but a Comedy rather than a Tragedy).  So, when I heard there was a performance of the Tempest taking place at a local stately home - Penpont Estate - by the Theatr Brycheiniog (Brecon Theatre), I didn't immediately jump to buy tickets.  However, as a couple of the ladies from the Book Club were planning on going, I thought I'd give it a go - especially as it was to be performed outside by firelight: "Tempest on Fire".

It was the most amazing experience.  So atmospheric.

But let me start at the beginning.  It rained on Friday, and of course, it's November, so we went equipped with salopettes, wellies, coats, scarves, hats, gloves, torches, umbrellas - you name it between us we had it.  We were transported by coach from Brecon to Penpont, and during the journey were entertained by what my friend described as "Vaguely related random bits of verse."  This included "Love is not love when it alteration finds" and an adaptation of a shipping report using humorous comments about Welsh towns and regions - we were, after all, going to a performance of the Tempest.

We arrived at Penpont and were greeted by a man in a red cloak who ushered us forward to the first scene which was set on a spiral maze.

If you don't know the Tempest - which I didn't - it opens on a scene with Prospero and his daughter Miranda, who were shipwrecked on an Island thirteen years before as a result of treachery.  Prospero explains to his daughter that he has raised a storm (there's a magical character called Ariel who does his bidding) to wreck the ship of those responsible for his downfall, but promises her that not one of them has been harmed - he has a plan.

The Guide in the Red Cloak

We were then led along a path to witness the shipwreck - which included fireworks, dancers, and a brief view of the rest of the characters. 

  The Shipwreck

Then it was time to move on to the final stage where the main part of the play would be performed.  It was a wet walk for us, but we were soon sitting on hay bales under a canopy watching the action.

The actors were less fortunate and I felt such sympathy for them as the rain continued to fall.  I was also astounded by their professionalism in such conditions to deliver such outstanding performances.  And they truly were outstanding performers.

I have often wondered why school children studying Shakespeare are not taken to see a play at the beginning of their course.  I know with books it is best not to be influenced by a film version before you read it, but Shakespeare is different.  It was written to be performed, and you will never catch the sense and meaning of the play when it is read haltingly by those unfamiliar with its language as will almost invariably be the case in a class room.  How are children to gain a love for Shakespeare if their first experience of it feels so impenetrable?

Trinculo - Nathan Goode
The actors on Friday night delivered their lines with such clarity and confidence that it didn't seem archaic language at all.  The timing and emphasis were such that it was very easy to follow what was happening.  I am sure that if I had been fortunate to watch a performance like this before I studied my English A-Levels I would have been much more enthusiastic about delving into the details.

Shakespeare is a master of creating a comic scene to offset the more serious elements of his plays and the Tempest is no exception.  The characters of Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban offer the "comic relief" in a drunken scene on the beach and did it so brilliantly that the audience laughed and clapped - the only time except the end where there was any overt reaction.  I found it fascinating that despite so many hundreds of years since it was written the humour still carried powerfully to a modern audience. 

Miranda and Prospero
Ariel above

 We had a pretty good view of the 'stage' but unfortunately it was too dark, and I was too far away for the camera to pick up detail very well, but hopefully these pictures convey something of the amazing atmosphere.
The Shipwrecked Characters

Finale Fireworks
After the play were were invited into Penpont House to enjoy some hot drinks and delicious brownies at very reasonable prices.  It was great to get in to the warm and sit down to discuss the play.  This was also where I was able to get the picture of Trinculo thanks to the courage of my friend in approaching him.  Then it was on to the coach for the return to Brecon.

A really spectacular evening - despite the weather.  If I get the chance to go to a similar event again I will definitely take it.

 Have you ever been to an out door theatre?  What was your experience?

1 comment:

  1. this sounds absolutely awesome! I have never been to an outdoor event like this but would certainly consider it

    Thank you for linking up with the Weekend Blog Hop

    Laura x x x


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