How do you stage The
Tempest with just four actors and the sort of minimal
setting which can accommodate itself to assorted school halls as well
as more conventional theatre spaces? James Williams has attempted
this with his pared-down production, adding in a visible stage
manager to assist with costume changes, sound effects and everything
else which is required at any time. The designer is Michaela Kemp.
The premise is that
these players have themselves been ship-wrecked with only a tattered
copy of Shakespeare's last great play for entertainment. Being
actors, they set about staging it. Two men and two women take all the
roles, dodging from behind a torn sail, up and down a sand dune to
give the story of the deposed duke, his daughter, the supernatural
beings who inhabit the island with Prospero and Miranda and the
Milanese court which also finds itself marooned there.
Not every actor at the
performance I saw had the measure of the language, let alone the
verse. Asha Reid as Miranda, wine-sodden Stephano and the old wise
Gonzalo and Becky Barry as Ariel and the not-always funny Trinculo
presented the most believable portraits. There's an interesting
doubling of the story's nominal young hero Ferdinand with the monster
Caliban (these days nearly always played as more sympathetic and
abused than in some earlier productions) by Matthew Jewson.
Liam Gerrard is both
the deposed Prospero and the usurping Antonio, another interesting
character parallel. His Prospero, perhaps understandably, lacked the
full measure of the philosopher-duke's gravitas but her seems more
comfortable with the amoral greed of Antonio, softened only by the
genuineness of his grief at the supposed loss of his son. This isle
is, as emphasised in the text, full of music. Zara Nunn's score has
the right slightly eerie quality.
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