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The Tempest

William Shakespeare
Baxter Theatre Centre at the University of Cape Town in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, and touring
(2009)

Production photo

They call it an African Tempest; it certainly is a most exciting, and unexpected version of Shakespeare's original and one that stimulates and arouses many different emotions, triggered by the words and the action, but enhanced by music, singing, dancing, puppetry and sheer emotional pressure.

Produced by the Baxter Theatre Centre at the University of Cape Town in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, an introductory note by the Director Janice Honeyman explains how she and Antony Sher, both from South Africa, met in London and she broached her 'African' Tempest to him - 'It's our play! It's African! Read it again! It sounds like home.'

And what we see is an anti-colonial fable, on stage, with Antony Sher as Prospero, John Kani as Caliban - an inhabitant of the island - and Atandwa Kani as Ariel. While they all have some original lines to speak, the atmosphere which develops is one in which Caliban, described as Monster by Stefano and Trinculo, is at times, accepting of his place but nevertheless is manifestly angry, and demanding of an independence he eventually achieves.

It is the background which is bewitching, both metaphorically and in partial reality, with witches and wizards developing incredible spectacular magic while the white incomers have to keep crossing themselves to ensure that they survive the patterns weaving around them.

Interspersed are the original stories of the main characters - Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero, Ariel and Caliban, while the men from Milan seem to spend much of their time unconscious. The evening demonstrates yet again that there is no single correct way to put on a play of W.S.

This production was reviewed by Kevin Quarmby in Stratford, by Philip Fisher in Richmond, and by Ray Brown in Leeds

Reviewer: Philip Seager