Last year, due to not really paying attention, I missed two of the four Bard plays. I won't be doing that this year. I booked early, and last night (July 4th) we went to the first of them.
Apparently "The Tempest" was in the 2008 season - and I missed it then too! Which means that this was the first time I had seen the play anywhere. In chronological order it is one of the last plays Shakespeare wrote (1611) - and the only one that "conforms to the classical unities: the action takes place in one place and in one day". It also is going to be "familiar" because so much of the text has been so often quoted
...We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
People came expecting to see a comedy and, once the initial storm and shipwreck were over, seemed willing to laugh at anything, even if it wasn't meant to be funny. In fact the storm was so severe that I had a hard to time hearing the dialogue - and now all actors are miked, that is indeed unusual. We had, due to early booking, excellent seats in the second row, centre stage. I will also admit that I did enjoy the view through the "back drop" (even though I have posted to Bard's facebook page that I do not go to the theatre to see backdrops)
In my edition of the Complete Works Trinculo is "A Jester" and Stephano "A Drunken Butler" In this version Trincula and Stephana are "ladies of the court of Naples" and wearing somewhat familiar outfits. Luisa Jojic and Naomi Wright perform a double act that could stand on its own as entertainment. Jennifer Lines as Ariel also deserves special mention since she has a stage presence that means no-one else is noticed when she is on. Even when she is not doing anything: in fact, especially when she is not doing anything. I do not believe in magic, yet that is what this play is all about. Prospero has learned magic from books: it was not enough to stop him being Shanghaied, but now he can turn all kinds of tricks to get his revenge - or possibly a better outcome than that, living well. It does require suspension of disbelief, that is the magic of the theatre, and Meg Roe (Director) has indeed worked a magic trick. She simply ignores the real world - which continues on its way outside the tent, sometime very noisily - and weaves spell that holds the audience enthralled.
You should not miss Bard - and if you cannot go to every show, at least make a special point of seeing this one. I feel sad when I see empty seats in any theatre. I really feel for the actors who make such an effort - and they deserve your attendance and attention. Live theatre is still much better than any electronic form of entertainment, and Bard is professional repertory at its best. We must support live theatre and we must keep Bard going. It is an essential part of a Vancouver summer.