Thursday, September 8, 2016

To the elements be free

I was browsing NetGalley for some new titles when I saw a new book by Margaret Atwood. So naturally I clicked on it to get so more information and what do you know? The very first line in the description is "William Shakespeare's The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed".
Naturally I had to request it and I felt pretty lucky when I was approved. And it's pretty great.

The story is both a re-telling of The Tempest as well as the story of a disgraced director putting on a production of The Tempest.

Felix was the Art Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival taking an avant garde approach to Shakespeare. (A Winter's Tale but Hermione is a vampire! Macbeth with chainsaws! Pericles in space!*) And now his latest creation would be The Tempest and he's been putting his heart and soul into this production moreso than others due to his own personal demons. His wife died in childbirth and his daughter, Miranda, died when she was three. This would be a tribute to them and his opportunity to protect Miranda on stage the way he couldn't in real life.
What to do with such a sorrow? It was like an enormous black cloud boiling up over the horizon. No: it was like a blizzard. No: it was like nothing he could put into language. He couldn't face it head-on. He had to transform it, or at the very least enclose it.
But everything is taken from him by his business partner Tony who has been working behind the scenes to get Felix removed from his position. The Festival wants more popular, mainstream plays. And musicals.

Felix is fired and disgraced. Humiliated. He pushes himself into exile, spending years thinking about revenge and imagining his Miranda is alive again. Eventually he decides he has to get out there and, under the name Mr. Duke, he takes up position at a correctional facility, helping to create an arts program. Naturally they put on Shakespeare plays, with the class being a surprise hit among the inmates, despite some people who are less than thrilled with the program.
Prisons are for incarceration and punishment, not for spurious attempts to educate those who cannot, by their very natures, be educated.
If you're familiar with The Tempest, you can probably guess where the story goes, though there are still some tense moments. If you don't know it, well don't worry cos Atwood provides a summary. Though really, even if you aren't familiar with the story, it's still an entertaining read. And of course it's Atwood so the writing is beautiful.

This was great and if you like Atwood or Shakespeare, you should pick it up. Even if you don't, check it out anyway.

Gif rating:
*Though that probably would have made more sense than an A.R.T. production of Pericles I saw awhile back. At one point it included a woman dressed in a beigh body suit, pink sarong, and gorilla mask dancing across the stage. I'm sure there was some meaning behind it. I just never figured it out.

Title quote from location 3844

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed. Crown Publishing, 2016. NetGalley. Pub Date Oct 11, 2016