Review – Prospero’s Library (fifth installation of The Tempest in six parts) – RETZproduces at Borduria (297 Hoxton Street)T


It’s six months now since RETZ started its six part Tempest, and I’ve been enjoying watching it play out. June is installation five, “Prospero’s Library,” and I tried to be early as possible making reservations so I didn’t miss out. (Retz’ shaky approach to letting us know when the performances are goign to take place has been driving me crazy for months now.)

I was now expecting a certain formula: the wait to enter the building from the back door; the bizarre “border guard” (Yuri?) checking my “passport” (I now have a running joke with him about his performance as the Bordurian entry for Eurovision); the ticket taker acting as if I’m really at a passport control going into a Soviet bloc country (I’m a known Bordurian citizen, now, so it all goes smoothly).

The mysteries for me are now all on the other side, where, this time, I am obliged to use a passcode to unlock the door. Inside is a slightly claustrophobic library, stuffed with gilded texts (some, however, quite dull modernish titles like “Balletomania”), decorated with taxidermied animals and skulls, with a bearded man hovering over a table built into one wall. It’s clear to me that he is Prospero. And, peeking around a corner, I can see a certain puppy-headed monster and his drunk pals, Trinculo and Stephano, hiding in a corner, waiting for their chance to attack.

The choice of scenes this time is the culmination of Prospero’s story (to me), as he turns away from his hatred and resentment and decides to let Ferdinand, son of his old enemy Alonso, marry his daughter Miranda. Prospero’s change seemed to me much more of an evolution in this context than when I had seen it in previous productions, when it appeared an abrupt and arbitrary decision of a still angry old man. Was it because of the power of this actor or was it caused by the intimacy allowed in such a compact environment (there were only five people in total watching the show)? Either way, for once, rather than balking at the sudden reversal, I bought into it.

And then … well, things will happen when monsters attack. And, for the sake of surprise, I will say no more about the performance. However, the books themselves are on sale if you go by the environment during the day; prices range from £1-£3. It’s unbearably, tempting, isn’t it? Me, I’ve got my eyes on a wonderful copy of Vanity Fair, and, of course, getting myself organized to see the final installment of this production.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, June 14th, 2012. Performances of “Prospero’s Library” continue through June 23rd and can be booked via the Retz website.)

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