The Tempest (1974): Royal Shakespeare Company, The Other Place
PrThe Tempest (1974)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Michael Aldridge (Prospero); Debbie Bowen (Miranda); Richard Griffiths (Gonzalo); Jeffery Kissoon (Caliban); Robert Lloyd (Ariel); Michael Pennington (Ferdinand).
This production had its press night on 22 October 1974.
"The company's second auditorium in a converted costume store half-a-mile up the road from their main building at Stratford-upon-Avon does not offer much scope for expansive staging. But is almost as if Mr. Hack had gone out of his way to demonstrate that he is capable of conventional Shakespeare. Apart from a little tampering with the text to indicate that the shipwreck and everything that follows is under Prospero's control, plus a little rough magic in the form of slide projections to get round the scenic problems of the banquet and the masque, he takes the play as it comes. The result is a competent workshop production that does not cast any fresh light on the play, does not often excite, but does present it in a lucid, no-nonsense way that younger audiences will appreciate and understand....Jeffery Kissoon, though he suggests the pent-up savagery of Caliban very well, is much too beautiful an animal for a monster." ~ Don Chapman, "Subdued Tempest", Oxford Mail, 23 October 1974
"It is played in a deliberately ruminative low key and should not in these intimate circumstances be any the worse for that. And since it is presented on more or less bare boards with just a spiral of wooden steps for Prospero or Ariel to cast their magic down upon the others, the test upon the players is considerable. It is not, alas, a test which is being met more than intermittently at the moment....But Caliban is all too shapely an advertisement for black manhood, and the rest of the performances vary from the inadequate to the bad, so that the production's rhythms are all at sea." ~ Eric Shorter, "Imaginative effects in low key Tempest", Daily Telegraph, 23 October 1974
"There are useful supporting performances by Jonathan Kent, as the usurper Antonio, all sneers and blackness, by Robert Lloyd, as a sensitive if not very spriteful Ariel, and by James Booth and Ian McDiarmid as a pair of inventive comics. Only the Caliban of Jeffery Kissoon jars, despite the power of the portrayal. Mr. Hack paints him as a monster only in his colour, but, in attempting to illustrate the white man's mental and physical cruelty to the black races, he succeeds only in being offensive to them." ~ N.K.W., "Place of magic", Coventry Evening Telegraph, 23 October 1974
"At a time of financial crisis it is suitable that the RSC investigate ways of mounting major plays in tin shacks. Keith Hack has substituted projections for the masque, but with a battery of 60 lanterns and an elaborate arrangement of platforms on barrels he has not achieved utter simplicity. A grubby curtain, which would be a sail, surrounds the platform, and there are moments when the stage suggests a home improvised by Prospero who, in Michael Aldridge's haunted performance, has a touch of Crusoe or even Ben Gunn....The centre of the production is Mr. Aldridge's Prospero. His claim 'so dear the people loved me' sounds like an empty boast; indeed, one suspects from his nervy paranoia, as well as from the overt tyrannizing of Ariel and Caliban, that this Prospero was banished from Milan because he was a dictator - although it is clear from Jonathan Kent's icy Alonso that he was replaced by something no more morally attractive....Mr. [James] Booth [as Stephano] is uncompromising in the humiliation of Caliban, who is no monster but the well proportioned Jeffery Kissoon, a slave simply because of his colour." ~ Charles Lewson, The Times, 24 October 1974
"Ian McDiarmid's Trinculo and James Booth's Stephano do not delve as deeply into the relevance of their parts as perhaps they might, though their comedy is skilful, and maybe it is a certain ambiguousness in Jeffery Kissoon's Caliban which makes these scenes seem to skim only the surface. Mr. Kissoon's performance is vigorous and graceful both physically and vocally, so that the monstrous aspects of Caliban are hardly credible. If that is gone, it is hard to believe in Caliban's innate instinct to destroy. It is, and has often been, tempting to see connotations of racial oppression in Caliban's role; but that can be very misleading." ~ Sheila Bannock, "On a wooden island with one 'tree'", Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, 25 October 1974
"The current production of The Tempest, by Keith Hack, is simply, straightforward and entirely enjoyable. It could be transferred to the main theatre down the road without the slightest thought of reducing the seat prices. Prospero is powerfully played by Michael Aldridge...Robert Lloyd's Ariel, on the other hand, is a completely unacceptable reading of the part, far removed from the light and dainty sprite we expect as a counterweight to the sullen Caliban. He, as it happens, is given full rein by Jeffery Kissoon, twisting his agile frame into fantastic poses to convey the acrimony of his feelings." ~ V.J.D. "Simple production of The Tempest", Evesham Journal, 31 October 1974