BY ROBERT MOORE
Staged in February 2000 @ Memorial Hall, UNB, Fredericton, NB
Director – Robert Moore
Rougher Magic weaves age-old intrigue:
The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
Nasty Shadows Theatre Company opened a three-day run of Rougher Magic at Memorial Hall, UNB, last night. It was an ambitious play with a clever script packed with literary references, some really meaty roles, and tightly-coordinated sound and lighting effects.
Director and playwright Robert Moore and his cast brought it off with panache. The title itself is a reference to Prospero’s speech in Act 5, near the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, where he renounces the “rough magic” given him by the spirit Ariel, that allowed him to rule the island upon which he, his daughter Miranda, and others were shipwrecked by a storm.
Certainly, the use of the title Rougher Magic implies deference to the genius of “The Bard.” But Moore’s script, a reworking of The Tempest, is intriguing. Shakespeare’s cast is pared down to Prospero, Miranda and the monster/slave Caliban, with Ariel and Ferdinand, Miranda’s suitor, in supplemental roles.
Instead of Prospero driving the action, with the assistance of Ariel and his magic, Moore gives us Caliban and Miranda as the chief protagonists, playing off each other and Prospero.
Miranda is played by three actors, adding lots of depth and perspective to the role. The playbill, incidentally, has the rather apt, unattributed quote, “a cubist Shakespeare,” which is literally true in the case of this three- dimensional character. And staging the play in the round on the main floor of Memorial Hall, with son et lumiere effects closely building and reinforcing the mood of the action, is very effective. Also, when not called on to deliver lines, actors mingled with the play-goers, and circulated around the floor, creating a definite sense of involvement in the audience.
Scott Shannon created a kind of “punk” Caliban by turns submissive and suffering; bitter and sarcastic; sullen and angry; malevolent and evil; and cajoling, lusty and frustrated. He was wonderfully supple in shifting from mood to mood, in a role responsible for much of the dramatic tension in the play.
Chris Stacey, as the island ruler and tyrant Prospero, propelled his character smoothly from initial world-weariness, through sarcastic and angry confrontations, mainly with his slave and his daughter, to a somewhat rueful acknowledgment of his baleful influence on them, as he prepares to leave the island.
The idea of having three Mirandas worked really well. Of the three, Miranda No. 2, Marissa Allison, had the most to do. Wearing a pink, frilly dress, she was the troubled teen, mostly focused on getting her freedom, sometimes deferring to “Daddy,” and sexually taunting the frustrated Caliban.
The interaction between these two conveyed particularly strong emotions, especially in the scene where Miranda narrates and acts out her dream of being followed by the slave. Allison even delivered a passage in passable German which however, this reviewer understood very imperfectly.
Miranda No. 1, Crystal Lee, acted a petulant young girl, still playing with dolls, yet attracted to Ferdinand, her suitor, largely from a desire for freedom from her somewhat overbearing father. She was good at portraying the high spirits and fears of a child.
Andrew Jones honoured the traditions of Shakespeare’s day, by playing a woman, donning a skirt, blouse and wig to portray Miranda No. 3. His Miranda was an older, more callous woman, contemptuous of Caliban’s approaches.
David Thorne played Prospero’s assistant, the spirit Ariel. But in Moore’s version, Ariel is definitely out of synch with his master. In fact it was hard to see what was driving this louche character, which was the least successful of the seven in the script. Thorne nevertheless, gave it a good try. He put lots of expression into the role, imparting a kind of uncaring nonchalance that certainly contrasted with Prospero’s serious and sometimes frightening intensity.
Matty Warnock played Miranda’s suitor Ferdinand, and was not only costumed as an Elizabethan (as was Thorne), but acted the part too, adopting a declamatory turn of speech that suited his rather foppish character.
Rougher Magic continues tonight and Saturday night, in Memorial Hall, UNB, at 8 p.m., and is well worth taking in.
© 2000 The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
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