Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents LA TEMPESTA By Alessandro Serra

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents LA TEMPESTA By Alessandro Serra

Serra's production begins with perhaps the most striking image of the work, the tempest itself.

The classic elements to create an effective magical illusion are smoke and mirrors. There might not be mirrors, but there is a great deal of smoke throughout Alessandro Serra's production of Shakespeare's La Tempesta (The Tempest), now in performance in Avignon's Opera House. This ubiquitous fog assists in creating many sublime illusions. Though for those who find Shakespeare enticing for pathos as well as panache, this fog blurs performances. With their faces obscured by fog and chiaroscuro lighting, Serra's take on The Tempest is an enchanting puppet piece.

The Tempest is already perhaps Shakespeare's most elemental work. It is his third shortest play and plot elements tend to layer upon one another without much integration of the elements. The lover's plot exists in one space, the fool's another, and the powerful men of Italy are isolated in a third. These seperate elements exist in distinct numerical categories too. The lovers have two individuals, the fools three, and powerful men four. Serra takes advantage of this with simple dancerly images. On the stage Serra has placed a square wooden platform. This platform is surrounded by large black walls that can shift for entrances and exits with cinematic ease.

Alessandro Serra is credited with translation, adaptation, direction, set, costume, lighting, and sound design. This final element might be the most stunning, as it shakes the opera house, first with sounds of the sea and then later with stirring music. All design elements are masterfully controlled, as if one wrong syllable and the entire magical spell is lost. Appraisal of the on stage human performances is less easy. One of the few thematically charged moments comes when, in English, Jared McNeil as Caliban says "Was I, to take this drunkard for a god, And worship this dull fool!" This moment is perhaps the only hint to the hidden moral complexities and depths of the play.

Serra's production begins with perhaps the most striking image of the work, the tempest itself. Ariel dances beneath a stage sized sheet that convulses abover her as she dances. The lighting and sound tells us we are beneath the waves and the wreckage. It is a spellbinding, vivid, and convincing illusion. It also couldn't be simpler. So much of Serra's beautiful imagery convinces the eye with a mix of exactness and simplicity. Like the tempest itself, such images overwhelm the characters that exist within them.

Photo Credit: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

From This Author - Wesley Doucette

Wesley Doucette is a PhD student in French Literature at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses include French cultural institutions such as the Festival d'Avignon and the innovations of administrators... (read more about this author)

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents THE LINE IS A CURVE By Kae Tempest
July 28, 2022

The 76th Festival d'Avignon officially concluded last night with Kae Tempest's The Line is a Curve at the Cour d'Honneur. This is the fifth album by Tempest. Previous works include Brand New Ancients, which I had the benefit of seeing some years back at New York's St. Ann's Warehouse. Their work in that instance was a transporting piece of storytelling. It was a very sober affair. The Line is a Curve started that way, but quickly became the cathartic rock concert to end the annual Festival.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents SILENT LEGACY By Maud Le Pladec and Jr Maddripp
July 28, 2022

Silent Legacy, now in performance at the Festival d'Avignon's Cloître des Cèlestins, asks questions about points of exchange. The relationship between the dancer and choreographer is complex. Literarily focused theatre's collaborative quality sometimes benefits from the boundaries made by script writing. In this way, the playwright has a product outside the performance. In most instances with dance, the work can only exist within the body of the performer. Silent Legacy presents its audience with two such points of exchange.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents RICHARD II By Christophe Rauck
July 25, 2022

According to a poll taken in 2016, a little more than half of all British people have seen or read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. That number dips just below half for Macbeth and Midsummer. The Tempest rounds out the Top 10 at 22% engagement. Deep down in this list at 7%, tucked between Merry Wives of Windsor and Love's Labour's Lost, is Richard II. This obscurity was seen as a feature not a bug for Jean Vilar when he opened the first Festival d'Avignon with Richard II in 1947. Since this performance, the play has become something of a hallmark of French theatre. This year, Christophe Rauck adds his own directorial vision at the Festival's Gymnase du Lycée Aubanel with Micha Lescot in the title role.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents DU TEMPS OÙ MA MÈRE RACONTAIT By Ali Chahrour
July 25, 2022

One of the most famous images of 20th century theatre is that of Brecht's Mother Courage who, when told she needs to remain incognito when her son is shot, offers a silent scream. In Ali Chahrour's Du Temps Où Ma Mère Racontait, now in performance at Avignon Université's Cour Minérale, Laïla Chahrour similarly unhinges her jaw into a scream, though it's anything but silent. Undergirded by musicians playing behind her, she cries into the audience, her voice rising into the starry sky. In the face of all the tragedy she has explored with her family, it is a resonating moment of catharsis.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents LE SACRIFICE By Dada Masilo
July 25, 2022

Choreographer Dada Masilo, a South African native, studied dance at Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's school in Brussels. While there she developed an appreciation for the grand patrimonial dance-works. Her company, Dance Factory Johannesburg, has made a name for itself through oftentimes-comedic deconstructions of European classics like Swan Lake, and Giselle. In Le Sacrifice Masilo has decided to address a different dance classic, Le Sacre du Printemps. It was a long road to the Festival for Le Sacrifice, now performing in Avignon's Cour du Lycée Saint-Joseph. The piece has been twice canceled due to Covid. While her movement vocabulary lacks in imagination, the performances themselves were thrilling.