Friday Film Focus: Shakespeare Uncovered – The Tempest by BBC

OK, so it’s not quite a film, but it is a The Tempest-related viewing experience.

I checked out Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn, an hour special, hosted by the famed British director, focusing on the last romance.

Shakespeare Uncovered: The Tempest with Trevor Nunn (photo courtesy PBS)

As with all of these specials, what I like about them is their glimpse into the performance history of the play (I didn’t know Ralph Fiennes played Prospero in 2012). I totally buy Nunn’s assertion that this is Shakespeare’s most ambitious and radical play, a kind of experiment, one in which Shakespeare himself might have played Prospero (maybe, but I see this as hopeful conjecture).

It also hit many of the high points I have or will discuss during my time with the play: historical background, geography, the concept of Prospero as stage manager, Caliban and colonialism. It also pointed me into directions I hadn’t really thought about: the use of the indoor Blackfriars theater and the idea that Shakespeare’s audience would have a greater suspension of disbelief on Prospero’s magic, since many in that audience would have believed magic to be a real thing.

If you who have read my video reviews of Shakespearean adaptations that Nunn has directed, you may remember that I’m typically not a fan. I find his Shakespeare stuff pretty ponderous, even the comedies. And here, I’m not sure I buy all of his conjectures (Prospero is 50 years old, Ferdinand is a playboy). And if the play is being produced in the Blackfriars, why would “the great globe itself” necessarily have to be a reference to the Globe Theatre, making this speech a valedictory?

Those quibbles aside, anyone looking for a good overview of the background of the play–having already read it–would find this to be the right video at the right time.

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