Richard Alan Campbell plays Prospero in The Tempest in Withrow Park.
THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare, directed by D. Jeremy Smith, with Richard Alan Campbell, Miriam Fernandes, Madeleine Donohue, Peter van Gestel and Steven Burley. Presented by Driftwood Theatre, at Withrow Park (south of Danforth, east of Logan), July 22-27 at 7:30 pm, and then various venues around Ontario. Pwyc ($20 sugg). driftwoodtheatre.com.
Despite the possibility of barking dogs, noisy planes and the occasional rainstorm, Richard Alan Campbell loves doing summer theatre outdoors, especially Shakespeare.
This year he's back with Driftwood Theatre, which celebrates its 20th season with a southern Ontario tour of Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest. It's his eighth outdoor performance of works by the Bard.
Campbell plays Prospero, the magician who's lost his throne in a palace coup years before the action begins; he's lived with his daughter, Miranda, on an enchanted island since then. When his usurping brother, Antonio, and Alonso, the king who aided in the coup, approach the island, Prospero has a chance to take revenge by raising a storm and shipwrecking them and their retinues.
"That's the tension of the play, whether he's actually going to get even with those who wronged him a dozen years earlier," says Campbell, a VideoCab regular who recently appeared in Trudeau And The FLQ. "Why look for vengeance when he also sees the possibility of uniting his daughter, Miranda, with Alonso's son, Ferdinand?
"What does Prospero really want, a release of his long-simmering anger or to create a new life for his daughter?"
The idea of romance is central to the play, too, in several senses.
"It's a romance about love, given the young couple and their quick fairy-tale falling for each other. The play, after all, takes place in only a few hours of its characters' lives."
But there's also the literary meaning of "romance," a term used for Shakespeare's last plays, including Cymbeline, Pericles and The Winter's Tale. All deal in a meaningful way with forgiveness, consciously putting aside past injuries to look toward a healing future.
Campbell thinks of Prospero as having other offspring, at least metaphorically, in addition to Miranda, one of whom also needs to be forgiven. The magician has command over the spirit Ariel and the more earthly Caliban, who was initially welcomed by Prospero until he attacked Miranda.
"The more we work on the play, the more it feels like Ariel and Caliban are like his children," says Campbell. "Ariel is the character who suggests that Prospero should feel pity for the other human characters; she guides him to mercy. Caliban and two of the shipwrecked crew plan to attack the magician and rule in his stead, but in the end I don't think Prospero punishes Caliban harshly.
"Ariel and Caliban are like offspring he wants to instruct and improve: the former is a sprite with ADD and latter is a hothead who's gone down a bad path."
Toronto audiences will see Campbell perform in Withrow Park, where he appeared in six shows with Shakespeare in the Rough, including King John, Measure For Measure, Titus Andronicus and The Merchant Of Venice.
"With Shakespeare in the Rough, we worked between two big trees and had to deal with the elements in terms of sound and sometimes wet ground. Driftwood has a portable stage and mikes, a blessing on windy days or to counter the occasionally noisy patron.
"But even so, unpredictable events happen outside. When I was doing King Lear with Driftwood, I remember that during one show, in the middle of the tender reconciliation between Lear and Cordelia near the end of the play, a drunk carrying a six-pack of beer walked onto the stage.
"His friends yelled at him to come back to them and stop bothering us, but one of Shakespeare's key scenes was already turned upside down."