It was a balmy spring evening in Sydney, the sky was clear of clouds for the first time in a week and we were strolling across the forecourt of the Opera House, having enjoyed a production of The Tempest by the Bell Shakespeare Company. The waves of the harbour were lapping gently against the quay, as many as six or seven stars were visible through the light pollution of the city (okay, it's not a perfect city), and all seemed right with the world.
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
The play? It was a lovely, simple production. John Bell was brilliant as Prospero, naturally. Miranda and Ferdinand were suitably gormless, and Ariel sang beautiful, melancholy songs with a remarkable voice. I remember debating, many years ago, whether Ariel was meant to be played as a male or a female, and I suspect Shakespeare himself intended the gender of his airy spirit to be indeterminate. This Ariel was unequivocally played as a female, and Bell has added an undercurrent of hints that she might be half in love with Prospero to the master/servant relationship. Caliban was one of the best on stage, I thought; he was played by a tall, lanky and remarkably good-looking young man, so the ugliness of the character had to come from the actor's skill rather than costume or make-up. He did, however, sport an impressive mohawk, which the Dude was jealous he didn't get to see.
The Tempest must be on the HSC curriculum this year, as a large contingent of teenagers trooped into the theatre just before the lights went down (there was no curtain to go up) and immediately raised the noise level by about 300 per cent. The FP has decided that the collective noun for a group of teenagers should be a "spectacle", because -- in his opinion -- they are constantly trying to draw attention to themselves by talking or laughing louder than necessary, or making a fuss about things that aren't worth making a fuss about. As we have lived with teenagers (and occasionally their friends/boyfriends, thus experiencing the phenomenon of a spectacle of teenagers in our own home) for the past seven years, we know what they're like.