Performance Critique essay with annotations from lecturer.

I am going to be adding some of the essays that I have completed in my first year of university in an attempt to help guide first students into academic writing. The feedback from the lecturers that marked this essay is at the bottom of the page. Take note of the feedback that has been provided as it tells you what could be improved and what was done well.

RSC:-The Tempest (In collaboration with Intel) Performance Critique 2017: 

A blasting sound of thunder erupts, as Alonso and his crew members clamber onto the stage in distress, opening the Royal Shakespeare Companies two-thousand and sixteen production of ‘The Tempest’ celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The excitement to see what spectacle had been produced during the RSC’s collaboration with Intel and Imaginarium was soon shattered. It became clear during the performance that the production was more of a technological experiment than an impressive piece of theatre.

Gregory Dornan described the use of technology in this production to be ‘magical and unforgettable’ (The Tempest, Dornan,2016) however, the hovering harpy showing the shape-shifting character of Ariel presented on moveable grey gauze, was more like a tacky animation from the internet game World of War Craft, taking the attention away from the sheer talent of Mark Quartley playing Ariel. Qaurtley’s excellent physicality added to his captivating portrayal of Ariel which seized the audience’s attention whenever he was on stage; often being overshadowed by the unnecessary use of a high-tech flying beast. There was a noticeable delay in the motion capture of Ariel when he spoke as the mouth of the animation did not move when the actors did and the projections were primarily towards the audience sat directly in front of the stage, ruining the effect for the audience who were sat either side. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, journalist and theatre reviewer for The New Yorker said the animations where ‘like a PowerPoint presentation built from clip art’ (Pollack-Pelzner et al., 2016).

The action created on stage relied on the technology provided by Intel which took away the real Shakespearean feeling of this production. The lighting was very impressive and Shakespeare expressed through adding a Masque into ‘The Tempest’ that he aimed for this play to utilise the most ‘Innovative technology’ (The Tempest, Dornan, 2016) and ‘stage machinery’ (The Tempest, Dornan, 2016) of the day. However, the choice of using SFX and lights on stage to create a literal representation of the magic in the play ultimately removes the audiences’ ability to imagine for themselves the limitless power of the magic in ‘The Tempest’. The vibrant and lively SFX often seemed out of place. One moment that exemplified this was when Simon Russel Beale, playing the part of Prospero, conjured a ring of fire with his magic staff shown in a circular motion of orange light on the stage. From the moment, he started to cite his monologue from ‘ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves’ (Act1 Scene 7, Shakespeare and Gill, 2010) the actor was not in sync with the lighting on the stage: it did not look believable it just made the performance seem extremely unrealistic. In fact, there were very few actors during the performance that interacted well with the technological scenography.

The Masque, ‘a grand, spectacular entertainment which combined song, speech, and dance in a display which was primarily visual in its appeal’ (Shakespeare and Gill, 2010) was undoubtedly seen as the most spectacular moment in a production at the court of King James. The Masque in the RSC’s production of ‘The Tempest’ was a joy to watch. The audience were dazzled by the harmonious voices of Samantha Hay and Jennifer Witton and the energetic dancing from the ensemble in a spellbinding wedding ceremony for Miranda and Ferdinand. This scene was refreshing, vibrant and magical; creating ‘the most majestic vision’ (Act 4 Scene 1, Shakespeare and Gill, 2010). The use of the lighting and SFX was perfect to establish the magical effect of the sprites on the Island.

Stephen Brimson Lewis’s set ‘orchestrates the visual spectacle’ (Billington, 2016) and from the initial viewing of the scenography the buzz among the audience as they got settled, was unforgettable. This show was a very effective way of experimenting with the latest technology and incorporating it into the theatre of today, however, it felt a little too adventurous and cluttered at times, Billington, theatre reviewer for Th Guardian described the use of advanced technology to be a ‘one-off experiment rather than a signpost to the future’ (Billington, 2016). Simon Russel Beale performed Prospero’s soliloquy, said to be Shakespeare’s farewell to the Theatre. He gave a truthful and heartfelt performance to end the production leaving the audience in silence as he voiced the last line of the play, ‘Let your indulgence set me free’ (Act 5 Epilogue Shakespeare and Gill, 2010).

Bibliography

Billington, M. (2016) The tempest review – Beale’s superb Prospero haunts hi-tech spectacle. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/nov/18/the-tempest-review-simon-russell-beale-rsc (Accessed: 7 January 2017).

Pollack-Pelzner, D., Remnick, D., L’Official, P., Brody, R., Kalb, B., Borowitz, A., Ali, R., Schjeldahl, P., Gopnik, A. and Yorker, T.N. (2016) Daniel Pollack-Pelzner. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/two-ways-to-bring-shakespeare-into-the-twenty-first-century (Accessed: 7 January 2017).

Shakespeare, W. and Gill, R. (2010) The tempest: Oxford school Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare (2016) Directed by Gregory Dornan [ Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, 30 November].


Feedback:

Grade Achieved: B+

1. A good analysis of the production, including references to the play, specific scenes and some historical background.

2. A good understanding of how the technology used in the performance impacts on theatrical imagination.

3. Sometimes your thoughts need further explanation – e.g. “the technology…took away the the real Shakespearean feeling of the production”.

4. A clear and flowing writing style – just check your spelling of cast/crew members names. 

5. The arguments developed in the first half of the essay are then somewhat contradicted by the conclusion. Be absolutely clear about what overall point you are making.

6. Your referencing is clear and accurate. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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