I had a wonderful day out on Tuesday! A friend was going on a coach trip to Stratford-on-Avon to see the Tempest, and invited me to come with her.
I've never been to the RSC before, and the Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I jumped at the chance.
This meant an early start to drive into Hereford - the coach was waiting in the car park round the back of the football ground. We headed down to Ross to pick up some more passengers, and then across to Stratford, arriving around 11am. The coach stopped next to this charming little statue - Bottom and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, making music together, given by the State of Israel!
I took the picture through the coach window, which is why it looks a bit odd.
We were a little early to order lunch, but we had an extremely nice breakfast at Cafe Rouge on Sheep Street, just round the corner from the theatre.
The performance began at 1pm, and they were having the camera rehearsal for the following day's live broadcast, which was shown at Booths Cinema in Hay. We were up in the Gods, looking down on the stage, and though I noticed the camera moving around on a long arm, it wasn't intrusive. There was a school party just behind us, and they weren't a problem either - chatty while the lights were up, but very quiet during the play.
Though I'd never been to the RSC before, my sister had come with our school, back in the 1970s, and must have sat about where I was sitting on Tuesday. She suffered from vertigo, and had to go downstairs to stand at the back of the stalls, where she ended up explaining the play to a party of Americans. It was the highlight of her weekend - especially as she'd never seen Hamlet before!
We were looking down into a stage defined by ship's timbers - with the most incredible lighting effects when the action started. Ariel appeared on stage, but was also performing with motion capture, so that projected animations moved as he did, flying across the stage. At other points in the play, the stage was covered with flowers, mariners from the wrecked ship sank through the sea, Ariel was reminded of his imprisonment in a cleft tree, and trees appeared in the background, all done with the lighting.
It was a far cry from the production Susan had seen in her youth, with John Gielgud as Prospero and Margaret Leighton as Ariel, when the special effect denoting the sea was a long piece of material being shaken up and down across the stage! It was nice to see a picture of Margaret Leighton as Ariel from that production in the stairwell as we went downstairs after the show.
Simon Russell Beale, as Prospero, was not John Gielgud, but he did play a very good Falstaff in the TV production The Hollow Crown.
It was also interesting to see Simon Trinder as Trinculo, comic relief with Caliban - he also played Frannie Bliss the policeman in the TV production of Phil Rickman's novel Midwinter of the Spirit. Caliban was played by Joe Dixon, who had previously been the Chancellor of Gallifrey in the Doctor Who episode The End of Time! Stephano, the drunken butler following Caliban round the island, was Tony Jayawadema, who had previously been Tony in the film A Street Cat Named Bob, which I saw before Christmas - I think he was my favourite character in this production!
One of the Spirits had previously appeared at Bristol Old Vic in the production of Jane Eyre I saw last year, and Oscar Pearce, who played Antonio, Prospero's wicked brother, had a minor part in Captain America: The First Avenger! He did a good double act with Sebastian, the King of Naples' brother, played by Tom Turner.
It was a magical performance; the lighting and special effects were stunningly good, and it was a wonderful day out.
When the coach dropped us in Hereford, we drove home to Sibelius on the radio, and finished the day off with a meal out in Hay. Tomatitos was closed for the winter season - they're only opening towards the end of the week - and Kilvert's was closed for renovation, so we ended up at Red Indigo, for a very good curry.