This Rough Magic

August 8, 2010

We saw the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Tempest this past weekend, and, as always, it was beautiful and thought-provoking.

I think what struck me most was that, for a play that is often made to be “about” something (a farewell from Shakespeare, colonialism, etc. etc.), this production didn’t make itself about anything other than a damn good production of The Tempest.  Ariel and Caliban were both magical and terrible. Gareth Potter was Ferdinand, and a fine change from the common shortcomings of the Festival’s young men. In his 7th season, I’d hope he’d be!

William Hutt told a story about his first year at the festival, when he got on stage, thought he’d be Shakespearean, and proceeded to bellow every line. Tony Guthrie, he said, took him aside and said, “You’re too loud, too loud, too loud.” The difference between the experienced and inexperienced actors, to me, always comes out in such things. When Christopher Plummer speaks, it’s as though Prospero is saying those things just as he thinks them. Miranda was especially loud and Hutt-Shakespearean in her first scenes, but Plummer was a calming influence on her as they continued together. It was a lovely thing to see.

And then, Plummer did a book signing. Mom and I have had his book since it came out, and I thought about bringing it along, but then didn’t think there would be an opportunity (some grade 9 classmates and I once waited outside the stage door for Jonathan Crombie–Gilbert Blythe–till someone came and got us and told us our bus was leaving…Crombie-less). So without having brought or bought a book I had to wait till the end of the line. He was still gracious enough to sign a program for both my mother and I. I would have explained the situation but they were moving quickly and I thought I’d tell him how much we’ve appreciated his work, and for how long, rather than saying, “I promise I have a copy at home!”

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