A Review of the Tempest
Adaptations of plays, of songs, of anything for that matter, is usually a challenge because one has to interpret and re- invent that which had already been done, keeping it relevant and interesting. I found that this was successfully achieved in "A Tempest", an Aimé Césaire representation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" staged last weekend by the Alliance Francaise de la Dominique and La Cour des Arts. It was done in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the French writer, playwright, politician and, I dare say, philosopher.
Director, Alwin Bully, who always tries to present novelty in his presentations, succeeded in putting together experienced and youthful talent via his auditions to portray major characters such as: Prospero-Jay Grimner; Caliban-Emmanuel "Haxey" Salamant; Miranda- Justina Worrel; Ferdinand- Cornell Linton; Ariel- Lester Guye; Alonzo- Lincoln Cassell; Stepano- Curtis Clarendon; Trinculo- Clive Atwell and, of course, Esha/ Master of Ceremonies- Ashworth "Brong" Simon. These were the major characters, which accounted for less than 50% of the entire cast and what's more? It was not staged at the traditional Arawak but at the Alliance Française.
Frankly, and maybe surprisingly to my readers, the setting seemed more appropriate as actors were not assembled behind a curtain as they waited for showtime. Instead, they were seen in costume , mingling with the audience , laughing and conversing amongst themselves when suddenly the MC- Ashworth Simon- issued costumes and parts to the players that I've already mentioned, giving the effect of a play within a play ( popular theatre style)in which the audience themselves were all cast members, extras, of their own production . In fact, it was through the audience that most of the entrances and exits were made.
In this setting of magical powers and intrigue, the first conflict, man versus his environment, was orchestrated by Propero (Jay Grimner) who was given the powers to command the wind and create a storm which eventually shipwrecked sailors on an island ruled by Caliban (Emmanuel Salamant).
The evil invader, colonizer Prospero who had strange magical powers wielded submission of the trees, animals and even the natural elements which he used to full effect to enslave Caliban and his kingdom where he once lived as one with the natural elements. Soon he became the new King colonizer and even manicou, agouti, insects and snakes became subject to his bidding.
Now the evil, white Prospero not only made a slave of the Black Caliban whom he referred to as one of his animals, a savage cannibal, but he also subdued Ariel (Lester Guye) who passively and dutifully did his master's bidding , servitude, hoping that Prospero will one day make good on his promise of freedom.
As time went on the audience was greeted to numerous exchanges fuelled by the defiance of the wood-cutting, water- fetching, enslaved Caliban and his "master", the prosperous invader, King Prospero, who used the power of magic to subdue all and sundry. Yes, even the shipwrecked sailors Alonso (Lincoln Cassell) and strongly built soldier Ferdinand (Cornell Linton) who fell in love at first sight of Prospero's beautiful daughter Miranda (Justina Worrel) also succumbed to the "white magic". Subsequently, so did Antonio (Leona John) and her duo of esteem nobles Gonzalo (Sonia Riviere) and Sebastien (Delia Cuffy- Weekes) was no match, neither was the forest nor its inhabitants (Merissa Gabory and Gloria Augustus).
Nonetheless, Prospero found favour with Ferdinand and gave his daughter's hand in marriage to him in an elaborate ceremony which featured, much to the delight of the audience, the satin and attire of medieval times. The language of the production itself was a colorful representation of Shakespearean-era, 15th Century colonizers, French as well as French Creole.
The highlight of the production was when drunken sailors Stephano (Curtis Clarendon) and Trinculo (Clive Atwell) came ashore and found Caliban asleep tired from his labour. They thought that being a "savage" or "Indian" he probably was uncivilized and could not talk. Their drunken stupor and dialogue brought out the best in Stephano, in particular, whose French intonations and mannerisms which he portrayed with excellence made him a favorite. The spirits found in their bottles were, however, no match for the conquest of Prospero's witchery, envisioned in an unlikely and comical alliance with determined and focused Caliban.
Subsequently, Prospero's envisioned that he was now getting old and his powers were weaker but held true to his promise of freeing the poetic and philosophical Ariel. When the feared black magician Esha (Ashworth "Brong" Simon) made his appearance and challenged his dominance on the island, he was left alone after his subjects fled.
Musicians Tyson Johnson (classical guitar) and Ras Algie-(lapau cabrit-congars) set the mood through accompaniment and added the required suspense to the production which featured, in the main, the vocals and compositions of former calypsonian Emmanuel "Haxey" Salamant .
Now…Prospero and Caliban were left face to face…alone!