After a rather long sojourn from seeing Shakespeare performed on stage, the first 30 minutes of this show was a bit of a shock to the system; it took a while to get back into the rhythm and flow of the language before I could take it all in.
The storm of the title was well executed, with flashing lights, appropriate thunderous sound effects and some choreographed movements by the cast to give the impression of rough seas and a sinking ship. But when the excitement of the storm gave way to its creator, Prospero (Arthur Kincaid – also directing), I struggled to follow the conversation with his daughter, Miranda (Skyrah Palli), which provides the backstory to the play – how he was usurped as Duke of Milan by his brother, Antonio (plotting with the King of Naples, Alonso), and left to die on a “rotten carcass of a boat”. My inability to follow the scene was possibly partly down to my lack of Shakespearean viewing lately, but I also found Kincaid’s delivery quite underwhelming, not helped by Palli’s similarly lacklustre reactions.
Having said that, as the play went on I began to warm to both actors, and although I would say Kincaid’s Prospero was not the powerful magician one might envisage, he gave a solid performance of a difficult role. However, the stand-out performance, for me, was that of Ariel, played by David Jones, who also assisted with directing and composed the music (an important part of the play). Once I got past his lack of clothing (he wore nothing but some artistic body-paint and a tiny gold thong Kylie would have been proud of, for most of the performance), I was impressed by his very controlled physical performance, seeming suitably otherworldly in his mannerisms and movements.
There were other notable performances from the cast – another physically challenging performance was given by John Askew playing Caliban, crawling about animal-like on his haunches while stuttering through his lines in a way befitting the character. And he was joined by a camp, hyena-like Trinculo (Christopher Kelsey) and hilariously drunken Stephano (Alexander McMorran) who breathed life into the performance whenever they entered the stage.
The set was sparse, the director instead opting to use lighting, music and sound (along with the cast’s performance, of course) to aid Shakespeare’s language in taking the audience to Prospero’s desert island.
Overall, it was an enjoyable evening. I think The Tempest is a play that can be interpreted in many different ways, but this seemed to be a straightforward, rather unimaginative reading of the original text, and perhaps I found that slightly disappointing, but the cast made it interesting viewing, aided by the use of music and song throughout.