British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
The Tempest (1994): Birmingham Repertory Theatre
PrThe Tempest (1994)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Rakie Ayola (Ariel); Ginny Holder (Miranda); Daniel Isaacs (Ferdinand); Jeffery Kissoon (Prospero); Richard McCabe (Caliban).
This production ran from 9 September - 8 October 1994.
'Photo-negative' production of The Tempest with a black Prospero (Jeffery Kissoon) and a white Caliban (Richard McCabe).
"There are a lot of good ideas sloshing around in Bill Alexander's big, brave Birmingham production of The Tempest....Jeffery Kissoon is a joyless, black and brooding Prospero, with no external qualities of the showman or conjuror...The setting by Ruari Murchison is a large black polystyrene cave with a circular sandpit and a complementary moon. Richard McCabe's simian Caliban swaggers like a Mongolian warrior, gaping and staring wildly, and snatching at phrases and examples like a greedy toad. This is a self-conscious performance, but a very fine one, buttressed by a superb Trinculo and Stephano double-act from Geoffrey Freshwater and Andy Hockley." ~ Michael Coveney, Observer, 18 September 1994
"The ship, racked on furious waves, is a black platform suspended on ropes, almost becalmed in a serenely billowing cave of white silk....Director Bill Alexander, divinging parallels between epochs of discovery that rocked Faith, the Renaissance of Galileo, explorers of occult philosphers and Darwin's 19th century, tests The Tempest against Victorian theatrical styles....Jeffery Kissoon's Prospero, with swirly cape, is a prestidigitator of the vintage variety with a touch of Dracula. This castaway Duke of Milan is in melodramatic mode, falling to one knee as he reveals the past to his beloved Miranda. He hunches over with emotion and a hint of Quasimodo. This is a bold approach but can smack of indulgence....Miranda and Ariel (unaffected Ginny Holder and diligently tense Rakie Ayola) are like doppelganger daughters bringing out the Jekyll and Hyde in Prospero, a loving and cruel father....The company queries ideas of superiority, investigating race, intelligence and age. Inverting colonialist assumptions, badly-bred Caliban is white. Sophisticated Prospero and innately elegant Miranda are black. On another level Caliban is mentally defective like an asylum inmate. Yet, aping his 'betters', he makes fools of them, leaving you wondering if such wit is unwitting...The production has its problems. The Asian dancers, replacing the masques, are unintegrated....A good production by most standards but not enthralling." ~ Kate Bassett, "Intriguing Parallels", The Times, 15 September 1994
"Ruari Murchison's design - a circular sandpit echoed by an upstage vertical disc full of scudding clouds and beating waves - occupies the vast cubic capacity of the Rep stage. Piali Ray's choreography deploys Indian classical dance to convey the harmonious charm of the Masque - though we lose June, Iris and Ceres. Jonathan Goldstein's music is a fascinating mix of Asian and Afro-Carribbean rhythms." ~ Michael Billington, "Touch of magic", Guardian, 15 September 1994
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