"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Act II, scene ii
|Akademietheater Wien ; October 26, 2011 Zurich, Switzerland|
Director : Barbara Frey ; Starring : Maria Happel, Joachim Meyerhoff, Johann Adam Oest
Reviewed on : 2011-10-26 17:50:26 ; Reviewed by : Annett Baumast
|Prospero, Ariel, Caliban – all you need for a production of The Tempest. Or is it? Throw in Miranda, Ferdinand, Trinculo and Stephano and the answer is “yes”. Barbara Frey’s production of The Tempest for Vienna’s Akademietheater has recently been visiting Zurich on various occasions with only two actors and one actress, performing all the mentioned roles. The props also vouchsafe for light travelling: two long tables, nine chairs and a long pole that reaches stage heaven – Ariel’s preferred way of entering the scene (or exiting it for that matter). And Prospero’s coat, of course, which he puts on as soon as he enters the scene for the first time and takes off when he leaves. Prospero, beautifully played by Johann Adam Oest, is a storyteller in Frey’s production who fills us in on all the action that we don’t see performed. But before Prospero tells us the story of how he and Miranda ended up on the island, he – very fittingly – quotes Sonnet 73: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold…”, getting the audience into the mood for his half-sad tale that is to follow.
Enter Caliban: Maria Happl with a bald head, heavy boots and a flesh-coloured tube dress that makes her look like a worm. Her incredibly deep and mean laughter as Caliban becomes her trade-mark during the performance. Just by covering her head with a wreath of flowers and changing her voice, she instantly changes into Miranda, begging her father to stop the tempest. When called for, Ariel (Joachim Meyerhoff) slides down his pole, and, on his Master’s wish, ends the storm. For the first meeting between Miranda and Ferdinand, he takes off his thick glasses, puts on a tiny crown and leaves his clown collar to become a very shy and insecure Ferdinand.
After their arrival on the island, Stefano and Trinculo are the only members of the ship’s company to appear on stage in person: Johann Adam Oest and Joachim Meyerhoff put on caps, choose different chairs to sit on and here they go, pouring alcohol down Caliban’s throat and conspiring with him to kill Prospero. The story unfolds in fast forward with even faster role changes. Prospero continues to tell his story with help from Ariel who jumps in to describe what he (and we) cannot see and in between, the three actors play various of the scenes as they were intended. Not just the odd couple, beanpole Ferdinand and worm Miranda, but also quite a lot of situational humour make the evening a funny one, which is not always the case with productions of The Tempest.
To sum it up, a very reductionist but congenial approach to The Tempest and certainly one to remember. In order to fully enjoy the evening, though, knowledge of The Tempest’s main storylines is absolutely essential.
The production still runs in repertoire at the Akademietheater and visits the Schauspielhaus Zürich until the end of 2011.
Matthew William Peters, 1741-1814
Near the Cell of Prospero
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