All the familiar characters are there – Prospero, Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand, and Trinculo, but that’s where any similarity to Shakespeare’s The Tempest ends. For collaborative company With Wings, the original is a template rather than a Bible, and liberties may be taken with both word and action.
The purists will hate it, but this approach arguably makes Shakespeare accessible to those who wouldn’t normally engage with it, perhaps encouraging them to attend a full-scale, by-the-book version. Mourn your missing cod-pieces if you like, it is this level of irreverent innovation that gets theatre-virgin bums on seats in the 21st Century.
For this re-imagining, artistic director (who also plays an almost malevolent Arial with stunning physicality) Tom Coxon has turned Prospero’s island into a shoreline, complete with dilapidated beach hut, upon which the abridged story takes place. Arial’s entrance alone is enough to take the audience’s breath away and we know from the off that this is no pedestrian re-telling. Of course, almost everything that happens on the island from the opening scene happens because Prospero and Ariel are manipulating it and both actors are clearly relishing their puppet-master roles.
While not truly an actor/musician show, If Room Enough does feature some rousing original songs, composed by Christian Eccles-Cannon and Tom Figgins (Prospero and Ferdinand), and performed eloquently by members of the cast. Dom Blake is a nicely quirky and truculent Caliban, for his sins doomed to pedal his static bicycle endlessly as the island’s only power source, while Chloe Crenigan brings a sensuous and intriguing Miranda to the proceedings.
With Wings would be the first to admit that they’re not a wealthy – or even in some cases classically trained – company. However, under Coxon’s hugely vivacious direction, they brought to High Tide a piece of work that wouldn’t be out of place on any professional stage in the land, including many that are drowning in Arts Council funding.
A truly imaginative and inspiring adaptation of a much-loved classic. The stuff of dreams.