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Two roads to wisdom

Two magical versions of the Bard's last work offer a cynical but stimulating take on love and power, writes Aleks Sierz

The Tempest

By William Shakespeare

Nottingham Playhouse

October 29 to November 20;

Bury St Edmunds nationwide touruntil November 13

The Tempest is Shakespeare's last play, his magical farewell to theatre. On an enchanted island, Prospero, an exiled magician who together with the supernatural Ariel rules over the brutish Caliban, learns about humanity by watching his daughter Miranda's innocent love for the shipwrecked Ferdinand. In the end, he abandons magic and becomes a wiser ruler.

Richard Baron, the play's director at the Nottingham Playhouse, says: "The Tempest is one of the first plays I ever saw, and I've always loved the theatricality of it. It's full of theatrical metaphors and theatrical moments: our production will stage the magic and create a show that is visually, aurally and sensually stimulating."

He is particularly interested in the play's politics. "There's a whole discussion about leadership and good government. Prospero, after all, is in exile because he has been usurped, and the play opens with a storm scene in which the natural order is clearly overthrown. Then Caliban inspires the shipwrecked servants to rebel against Prospero. So there's a really cynical view of human nature and politics in the play as cycles of rebellion recur again and again."

For Richard Baron, the play is "more than just a charming fairy tale - its view of human nature is very sharp and modern". Prospero is "not a god-like figure but a human being who for 12 years has been nursing the great hurt of being overthrown. His notion of rulership depends heavily on putting people like Caliban in chains and we only have his word that his subjects once loved him."

Prospero clearly loves Miranda, so "he's very unwilling to let her go. He wants to hold on to anything he feels is his. He's frightened of losing his daughter and of liberating Ariel. He's quite parental to both - and paranoid about losing things that are dear to him."

Another production of the play, directed by Colin Blumenau for the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, is now on a nationwide tour. He says his version will "concern itself with the quirky idiosyncrasies of human beings battling to make sense of a world which defies logic and reason. It's a world where the supernatural and the base rub shoulders and where music and magic are as commonplace as food and drink."

l Nottingham Playhouse Tel: 0115 941 9419; for education: Tel: Kitty Parker, 0115 873 6203.

Bury St Edmunds: Email: For education contact Sue Rosser Tel: 01284 755127 ext 805Email:

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