an ill wind that nobody blows good

I couldn't resist that old pun (the definition of a clarinet or a tuba - I forget).  I saw The Tempest in Stratford last week, and it could be another reason, not only my new mattress, that my back hurt.  Too much time sitting in a car gets very painful and I get very stiff.

Anyway, I was looking forward to seeing Martha Henry, one of my very favourite actors, perform as Prospero.  I expected to be blown away by her. I'm sorry to say that I wasn't.  Her best scene was the Epilogue and that is a great scene and so was she, but for me she will never replace Bill Hutt as Prospero, the second time. By then he had grown past his ego and he was beatific.  

 One of my prerogatives as a critic in my own blog is that I can be quite biased and personal and selective. I can tell you that I really disliked Miranda, who squeaked and who was ill-served by two dreadful costumes. Speaking of which, it may be interesting to an archivist that Prospero's robe was made of bits and pieces of Robes Past.  To me it looked like a crazy quilt bathrobe. And here again I speak like the old-timer I am - for me there was never a Miranda like Martha Henry's. I can name several other definitive parts she played.  Her Prospero isn't one of them - not for me.

Three days later I was fortunate enough to see a DVD of the all-male production, directed by Tim Carroll (now with the Shaw Festival),  filmed by the BBC, of Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance as Olivia, and with several other British actors, heavy-weights all, who made it the best performance of that play that I have ever seen and who made it clear to me what The Tempest was lacking. 

Surprisingly - or it was a surprise to me - The Tempest is not as good a play as Twelfth Night.  That's all I can say now. I am as shocked as I think you probably are.  I have to think about it, and why.

This is why I love theatre.