Starring Helen Mirren as Prospera, the female Prospero. It’s the Shakespearean play about Prospera’s revenge on all the people who have wronged her. They are cast onto her island. Prospera wants her dukedom back from Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian. The spirit, Ariel helps. Miranda, Prospera’s daughter, is betrothed to Ferdinand son of Alonso. Two seaman Trinculo and Stephano meet Caliban, the momster who saves Prospera. They plot to overthrow the kingdom of the island. Justice is done, Prospera will return to Milan and all is well.
In this interpretation the male Prospero becomes the female Prospera but it’s not as if the text can support that! The male Prospero is unaccountable and controlling and this does not fit well with Prospera who is a supposedly wise mother to Miranda. I suppose the comparatively trivial fact that a woman would not have ruled a 16th century Milanese dukedom can be put aside but the text needs more for Prospera to work on. Still it’s a novel idea and Helen Mirren does it with aplomb. I’m not partial to her voice (sounds as if her jaws are wired together). Prospera’s relationship with Ariel is a sort of wary equality occasionally imbalanced by the debt that Ariel isn’t allowed to forget. Ben Wishaw plays Ariel as a special effects wizard, occasional star man and scary harpy. It’s a sort of rueful parental relationship. Her daughter, Miranda, is hardly the innocent novice of the play., in this production she looks like she’s competing with Ariel for ‘Androgyne of the Month’. Caliban is unprepared to accept either Prospera’s benevolent condescension or her hostility that comes from wounded vanity. He is not so much a noble savage gone wrong, more a sort of hominid performance artist hybrid. Antonio and Sebastian are suitably weasely. The pompous Gonzalo is a Polonius clone though Tom Conti tries to make him more likeable. David Strathairn as Alonso is. Trinculo and Stephano, played by Russell Brand and Alfred Molina, only have to gurn like failed stand up comedians, and we get irritated with them long before the long suffering Caliban does.
The island itself is unprepossessing like an Aegean hideaway made of bleak volcanic rock. At times, it’s like watching Lost in fancy dress, and Prospera is in danger of looking like an eco- tourism guide who specializes in light shows. Speaking of which, the film’s astrological performance is more inventively spectacular than any attempted visual analogy of an Elizabethan court Masque would be.