Saturday, 18 September 2010

Gender-reversed Tempests

I've just been looking at the first reviews of The Tempest, Julie Taymor's new adaptation screened at the Venice Film Festival and due for general release in December.  I like Taymor's style (Titus was great - a masterly and witty take that managed to redeem one of Shakespeare's least polished plays) and like The Tempest, so although the reviews are mixed - see the Telegraph and Indy Movies Online - it looks very worth watching.

In Julie Taymor's version of 'The Tempest,' the gender of Prospero has been switched to Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor's version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it's a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect.
- Internet Movie Database

The gender reversal is getting quite a lot of comment, but it's not unprecedented in stage productions: see On Prospera's Island from Metroactive; the Prospera's Brave New World section in Shakespeare re-dressed: cross-gender casting in contemporary performance.  However, I'm slightly bitching because around a decade back I wrote a Tempest adaptation using exactly the same idea, called Stormbound: The Tempest Retold. It was entirely hackwork - a fem-dom fantasy novella I wrote for an e-publishing firm called Amatory Ink - but I recall being very pleased with it as writing; it was faithful enough to The Tempest that I believe it had genuine literary merit as an adaptation. I'd been vaguely thinking of resurrecting it since finding a writing group critique for the first chapter. But, somewhere amid multiple changes of computer and clear-outs of outdated 3.5" disks, the rest is unfindable, and the publisher is defunct too. Moral: keep proper backups.
- Ray


  1. Though I never read it, I remember you discussing that.

    I, too, find that mss have somehow disappeared with time despite the fact that I thought I had done proper back ups... ach! :-)

  2. Yep. I am seriously annoyed. It was an intertextual piece, with quotations and allusions from all over: Titanic, The Prisoner, Forbidden Planet, other Shakespeare plays. In all honesty, I'd say it was one of the best things I've written. Feck.