Monday, October 3, 2011

"We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On"

Ralph Fiennes as Prospero in "The Tempest" at the Royal Haymarket Theatre in London

The eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson famously said of London, "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."  After a wonderful five day stay in London, I would have to agree.  And one of the most exciting aspects of life in London is the theatre.  To see a Shakespeare play in London performed by an English cast starring Ralph Fiennes has to be one of the quintessential English experiences and one of the highlights of a great trip.

On a beautiful night on our recent trip to London (the weather was amazingly warm) my husband and I saw a breathtaking production of "The Tempest" directed by Trevor Nunn at the beautiful Royal Haymarket Theatre.  Ralph Fiennes starred in this magnificent production and he was brilliant in the role of Prospero.  I have never seen this play before and was spellbound by the story, the beautiful language, the production and the acting.  There is something so heartbreaking about this story, in which Prospero must say good-bye to his daughter Miranda as well as his beloved Ariel, the spirit who performs all the magic, both of whom he loves very much.
The opening scene of the storm and the shipwreck is very dramatic and done with excellent special effects. The audience is watching as the the men on the boat fall into the water and struggle to survive as their boat is sunk.  This is done in a realistic/dreamy style.  Another enchanting aspect to this production is the way that the spirits and the goddesses are evoked.  This is done with great skill and originality, I thought, and the production is filled with magic and otherworldly qualities.  Music, lighting, and costumes all contribute to this effect.

The story of Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda being evicted from Milan and exiled to an island by Prospero's brother, usurper to the dukedom, is compelling.  When the play opens they have been living there for 12 years.  Prospero's brother, the usurper, and his men are the ones who have been shipwrecked on the island by Prospero's magical skills.  He has brought his brother to the island to deal with him over these grievances and the question is: will it be through revenge or mercy?  The spirit Ariel helps with the magic and moves the men around the island in such a way that they learn some lessons about their own behavior and about Prospero and Miranda and their lives for the past 12 years.  Prospero has also resolved to find a husband for his daughter Miranda, who is now fifteen. This man will be Ferdinand, one of the survivors of the shipwreck.  Miranda and Ferdinand meet and instantly fall in love.

It is a great play and the anguish and sorrow of the character of Prospero is hauntingly portrayed by Ralph Fiennes. This production of "The Tempest," a tale of the triumph of virtue over vengeance, is  beautifully performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre.  If you happen to be in London during the month of October, be sure to see it.   

"We are such stuff
as dreams are made on
and our little life
is rounded with a sleep"

By the way, did you know that during intermission at the Royal Haymarket Theatre, the ushers sell ice cream in the theatre and everyone eats it at their seats?  Amazing and so much fun!


  1. I will never be tired of life, for I will never tire of London. My favourite city in the world. So happy you had good weather, and Prospero, too!

  2. Oh dear - looks like I left too soon!! I could have stayed much much longer - I only got a teaser taste!!

  3. To experience a Trevor Nunn production at the Royal Haymarket Theatre!
    Especially The Tempest!
    I'd consider it a dream come true.
    You lucky, lucky thing.

  4. What a treat! So glad you had such a lovely trip. xo

  5. Shakespeare in London. Perfection.

  6. ice cream?!?! that's fun! looks amazing.

  7. That's exactly what I would have done in London!

  8. I hope you had a lovely time in London! We had some LA weather just for you recently! I love the Haymarket, and one of my favourite things about English theatre is the ice cream during the interval.

  9. Haven't seen The Tempest since college. What a treat to see it there with Ralph Fiennes. Lately, London has been catching up to what has always been my favorite city, Paris. Your summary is wonderful, too.

  10. Oh, I just laughed out loud at that wonderful synopsis of the play...and then the last bit about the ice cream was SO funny. London! Is everyone going to London lately? We will be there NEXT week! So glad your trip was super.

  11. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Ralph Fiennes is my ALL time favorite actor. I think my husband has "Ralph Fiennes" traits....