"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Act II, scene ii
|Adana Devlet Tiyatro ; December 17, 2004 Ankara, Turkey|
Reviewed on : 2004-12-14 07:42:45 ; Reviewed by : Antonia Mandry
|Javor Gardev's Turkish language version of The Tempest is a production that sweeps you up into the action, dazzles the senses, inspires the imagination and confuses the audience. Translated by Can Yücel, this version called Firtina (literally "storm") assaults the audience into enraptured silence. It may indeed be the most challenging Shakespeare production I've seen all year, and only partly because of the language barrier.|
The vision of the play is seen in fantastically modern times with avant-garde performances from even the sets. The stage is separated into two distinct spaces: the upper more traditional stage and the lower, pit-like proscenium. The stage works mainly as the interior of a ship with portholes in a back wall which opens and closes into the elements. Fans circle lazily from the low ceiling and at one point, water is flooded on to the stage and contained within that section. The lights are reflected off the water back onto the fans causing an eerie flickering atmosphere. Most of Prospero' scenes take place on the proscenium while the action of those outside the island are confined mainly to the stage. But such generalizations are often overturned for in Gardev's production all bets are off and chaos is uncontrollable.
We are all familiar with the story, but I advise anyone viewing a production of a Shakespeare play in an unfamiliar language to re-read it before going. For here was my fundamental problem: was I confused because the production was challenging me to look at the play in a new way, or was I confused because my Turkish was not so great? Luckily, accompanied by a Turkish friend and surrounded by an audience of agreeably vocal theatre-goers, I was able to determine that indeed it was the production that was confusing. Lest this suggest that the production was below par, I will immediately say: Confusion can be a good thing. During the production, the theatre was amazingly silent. Not a cough, or a shuffle could be heard as everyone strained with all their might toward the stage and the action. I've never seen an audience quite so committed to comprehension or a production quite so committed to subtext.
The play is anchored by the performance of Savaş Özdemir ("War True-Iron") as Prospero, wizard-king of the island. This black-haired wild-maned man's performance is punctuated by the moment when you realize this character is blind with white contact lenses masking his irises and he sees via his other senses. This father is a raging father who pursues his course until he realizes it will lead to complete destruction, and he still has enough parental feeling left not to desire that end. His daughter Miranda, played by Nimet iyigün, is a bit of a non-entity with army boots, tank top and short multi-braided hair, until she meets Ferdinand (Uğur izgi) and starts dragging him half-naked through the watery stage. There is an erotic desperation in this moment that is astonishing. Ferdinand is relegated to eye candy role: stripped to his shorts and dripping wet for most of the performance, he is merely a symbol of manhood for Miranda and a pawn for everyone else to play with (at one point he is actually physically lifted and set aside by Stephano as if a puppet). His father, Alonso (Ötüken Hürmüzlü), looks like a distraught Freddy Mercury and Trinculo (Önder Özcan) is a blind sidekick who's comic role in the play is non-existent : here he is nothing but another pawn. The character of Ariel is played by three actors all denoted by curls at the side of their heads. The actors (Raif Hikmet Çam, Gökhan Doğan, Sema Öner Kelav) are a ship's captain, an angry warrior-like man and a little girl, respectively. Finally, Tolga Tekin's Caliban is a neo-Nazi milita type fellow with a mohawk and a fetish for rape and explosives. All of the actors are completely committed to the role and bring a vibrancy and enthusiasm that is only matched by their ability.
What is Gardev trying to say with this violent production which ends in vests strapped with explosives and body bags? Gardev's message is that all must go back to the beginning otherwise destruction will result. In the end, this is accomplished only by forgiveness. This message was hidden under layers and language barriers but ultimately my own interpretation (wildly inaccurate and a product of my own turbulent psyche) was one of modern invasion, occupation and subjugation by a foreign force (Prospero) of a native people (Ariel, Caliban) which can only end in violence and grief.
I came away from this production confused but strangely satisfied that I had seen a powerful, moving production with searing images and archetypal figures realized on stage.
Matthew William Peters, 1741-1814
Near the Cell of Prospero
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