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Martha Henry (left) as Prospero and Mamie Zwettler as Miranda in The Tempest.David Hou/Stratford Festival

The Tempest

Written by: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Antoni Cimolino and Barry Avrich

Starring: Martha Henry

Classification: NA; 120 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

At their simplest, the Stratford Festival’s films record a theatrical event: Watching The Tempest you might think to yourself, “Sorry I missed this play, it looks like a lot of fun.” There is a particularly creepy Caliban (Michael Blake), a fish-man dotted with sea shells; there is an effectively earthbound Ariel (André Morin) costumed as the tree in which he was once imprisoned. And, of course, there is a firm and gracious Martha Henry as a female Prospero.

However, by the time you are sitting through a second half of more amusing clowning and elaborate costuming yet no unifying idea, The Tempest mainly feels like the record of a lost opportunity. Perhaps because traditional male power would have further to fall, Henry never seems to achieve the poignancy of her predecessors in the role of the declining magician. And director Antoni Cimolino never bothers to examine what a female leader might mean in this potentially violent place. What is a woman’s “rough magic” anyway? Sadly, this Tempest feels like Henry’s Hillary Clinton moment.

The Tempest opens April 13 at select Cineplex theatres across Canada.

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