Lucky is he who is given the power to forgive.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Everyone in The Tempest is trying to either usurp, consolidate or increase their power. Prospero neglects his rule, that is to say he poorly manages power. And right away his brother, his own blood, plots against him together with the king of Naples and sentences him to death by water. Gonzalo saves him, secretly providing him with the source of a power much greater than that of politics: magic. However, those who are uprooted know only how to uproot, says Simone Weil, and so it is that as soon as he arrives on the island, Prospero uses his magical power to take it from Caliban, whom he first adopts as a son and then turns into a slave. He will do the same with Ariel: he frees him from slavery but then forces him to be his servant for twelve years. Even his behavior towards Ferdinand and Miranda is dictated by mere dynastic interest. As in all romances, the theme of the union of two kingdoms is present in The Tempest as well.
As soon as they set foot on the island Antonio convinces Sebastian to murder his brother to become king of Naples. Gonzalo alone, in an amazing monologue written by Shakespeare with the words of Montaigne, rants and raves about an ideal society free of violence in which all goods are shared, without any sovereignty, in symbiosis with nature.
As a matter of fact, it is precisely in the face of nature that hierarchies are overturned in the first scene: in a stormy sea it is the Boatswain who commands, not the king, because What cares these roarers
for the name of king?
In truth, however, nature is the real ruler, and when nature decides to retake its place the sailors can do little more than chant their wise requiem: All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost!
Everybody is about to face death by drowning, but nobody actually dies, it is a baptismal immersion, an initiation within one’s own interior labyrinth at the end of which, as Gonzalo says, all of us (found) ourselves when no man was his own.
The supernatural in The Tempest kneels in service to man, Prospero is completely devoid of transcendence, and yet with his rough magic he imprisons the spirits of nature, unleashes the storm, and resurrects the dead. But it will be Ariel, a spirit of the air, to teach him the power of compassion, and forgiveness. Dost thou think so, spirit? Mine would, sir, were I human.
Upon this stage-island all ask for forgiveness and all repent except for Antonio and Sebastian, and it is not by random chance that they are also the only ones unaffected by the beauty and the state of elation which enraptures the others. The fact that Prospero gives up his revenge just as his enemies are laying at his feet, that right there is his true spiritual elevation, the supernatural arrives just as Prospero renounces it, foregoes using it as a weapon.
But the ultimate power, Shakespeare seems to tell us, is the power of Theater. The Tempest is a tribute to theater performed through theater, the magical power of which precisely resides in this once in a lifetime chance to access metaphysical dimensions through the conmanship of a company of comics stepping on measly wooden planks, with a handful of props and a meagre bundle of patched up costumes. This is where its ancestral charm resides, in the fact that everything happens before our eyes, everything is real even though it is so obviously fake, but most of all in that such a superhuman power is manifested only under the condition that there is an audience willing to listen and see, to imagine, to share the silence to create the ritual. Man will always be nostalgic of theater because it is the only place left where human beings can enforce their right to the magical act.
By | William Shakespeare
Translation and adaptation | Alessandro Serra
With | Fabio Barone, Andrea Castellano, Vincenzo Del Prete, Massimiliano Donato, Paolo Madonna, Jared McNeill,
Chiara Michelini, Maria Irene Minelli, Valerio Pietrovita, Massimiliano Poli, Marco Sgrosso, Bruno Stori
Direction, scenes, lights, sounds, costumes | Alessandro Serra
collaboration to the lights | Stefano Bardelli
collaboration to the sounds | Alessandro Saviozzi
collaboration to the costumes | Francesca Novati
Mascks | Tiziano Fario
language consultancy | Donata Feroldi
Production | Teatro Stabile di Torino – Teatro Nazionale / Teatro di Roma / Teatro Nazionale, Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione / Sardegna Teatro /
Festival D’Avignon | MA scène nationale – Pays De Montbéliard
in collaboration with | Fondazione I Teatri Reggio Emilia / Compagnia Teatropersona