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Interview: Alex Kingston recalls her early days at the RSC as she returns to play Prospero in The Tempest

Well known actor Alex Kingston makes a return to the RSC after first joining the company the early 90s. Since then she has dazzled in a plethora of cracking roles for stage and screen. Now she's storming back as the first female Prospero to tread the boards in Stratford. Here she talks about her work and how delighted she is to be in this 'healing' and climate crisis-caring production of The Tempest.

The Tempest has its opening night tonight, how did the first preview go last week?

It was nice having an audience in. On the first night I was quite surprised because when I first came on the stage I could hear a lot of schoolchildren in the audience, so I thought this is going to be quite difficult. They were a bit noisy to begin, but then they were silent throughout, it was extraordinary – they were so engaged. I think the way we have set it and the contemporary approach means it’s less alienating to an audience. The whole production is about the care or lack of care that one has with another but also with the world and the environment.

Alex Kingston pictured in her dressing rooom at the RSC. Photo: Mark Williamson. (62142537)
Alex Kingston pictured in her dressing rooom at the RSC. Photo: Mark Williamson. (62142537)

How are those environmental themes being put across?

Immediately when they enter the theatre the audience will see a stage that looks like it’s broken down – there’s grass growing through the floorboards. There’s also the sound of the sea and they know that it is an island – there’s a shack. There’s somebody that’s living there that is trying to make a life in this space. But the stage is also littered with rubbish – rubbish that was actually gathered from around Stratford. We all know walking along a riverbank or a seashore you cannot escape the trash. Immediately the audience knows the world they are entering into.

Magically, through the course of the play, the rubbish starts to be eliminated. That’s the message that we are trying to send – that there is hope. We can change if we set our minds to it. That’s changing the landscape and bad relationships. It’s about power and how it can corrupt but it’s also about forgiveness. It takes a lot of strength to forgive.

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