"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Act II, scene ii
|Guildford Shakespeare Company ; July 26, 2010 Guildford, Surrey, UK|
Director : Hannah Chissick ; Starring : Bill Ward, Leonie Heath, Caolan Byrne, and Rikki Chamberlain
Reviewed on : 2010-07-29 12:01:14 ; Reviewed by : Amanda Dumble
|The Tempest is a play with an integral theme of magic, and this was well supported in this production, primarily through the use of music. The harpsichord music filled the air whenever Ariel arrived or carried out a magical act, and its ethereal nature gave a supernatural air to the proceedings. The supernatural element was also well represented by the costuming of the other spirits of the island, who along with Ariel on one occasion, appeared in silence with black masks, black hooded cloaks and flaming torches. Guildford Shakespeare Company’s tendency to set the action all around the audience also worked well to support the mystical air, as it enabled the spirits and indeed Prospero (Bill Ward) to appear unnoticed by the audience.
The atmosphere of the play was further supxorted by the outdoor location, by a lake at the local university. The weather was slightly unsettled with occasional bursts of light rain and this added an air of authenticity to the feeling that Prospero has just caused a great storm and also to the repeated references to bad weather in the play itself.
The set for this production consisted primarily of the area around the trees. The only additions were two extremely large picture frame shapes set in front of the audience, another attached to a raft by the lake, a rug area and representation of the entrance to Prospero’s home, and two tall platforms, one by the lake and one between the two sets of audience seating. The most effective parts of the set were the two platforms, which most effectively removed the characters from the earthly goings on, and created some beautifully moving effects as the audience gazed up at the characters reaching up to the cloudy sky above them.
The beginning of the play was particularly striking, with a novel approach necessary as the outdoor location was dressed as the island, and the Company seemed understandably unwilling to throw their actors into the lake to enact the shipwreck! Instead the play began with Prospero and Ariel (Caolan Byrne) taking their respective places on the two tall platforms and stretching their arms wide – a gesture that the audience comes to recognise as a sign they are communicating and as a sign of magic. At their gesture, the harpsichord music filled the air, and Miranda (Leonie Heath) and Caliban (Rikki Chamberlain) carried out a silent dance that showed the progression of their relationship from initial friendship to the first moments of Caliban’s attempt to rape her. At that point, the two froze and a huge crash of noise rolled across the audience from hidden loudspeakers which played out the screaming sounds of the shipwreck occurring in Act 1 Scene 1. These first minutes of the production were genuinely gripping, and the atmosphere was maintained throughout, in my opinion primarily by the reoccurrence of Ariel’s music.
Although all the performances were excellent, the most notable were those of Bill Ward and Rikki Chamberlain. Bill Ward portrayed a truly caring Prospero, joyful that his daughter and Ferdinand (Jack Brear) find each other, and caring of Ariel. In sight of the audience for the majority of the play, his intense portrayal never seemed to falter, and I genuinely regretted the end of the play, as I could have watched him for several more hours at least. Rikki Chamberlain as Caliban was also excellent, giving a very physical performance with an edge of sympathy, especially as he watched Prospero’s home nervously for signs of awakening as Stephano (Stephen Darcy) and Trinculo (Matt Pinches) drunkenly try clothes on. He maintained a continually hunched posture, scuttling sideways, somersaulting across the grass, galloping at people in rage, and scuffing his feet on the floor in his absent moments. Whilst clearly sullen and angry, Chamberlain managed to draw some sympathy for the character just by the pathetic nature of his search for approval and vengeance.
Caolan Byrne gave a sincere performance as Ariel, but his sullen and somewhat resentful portrayal of the character seemed to clash with the mood of the rest of the play and also Bill Ward’s portrayal of Prospero. His clothes were also plain white garments – rolled up trousers, a shirt and waistcoat – and with no costume elements to add any element of the mystical, when Ariel’s music was not in evidence, it left the portrayal rather dull and earthy – the opposite of what an air sprite should be.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent production of The Tempest, giving great attention to the magical elements of the play and with great effect. There was comprehensive use of the setting, from characters hiding amid the trees to Ferdinand and Miranda stepping onto the ‘picture frame’ raft and literally floating away across the lake. There was good use of physicality - as always in plays by this Company - from physical silliness to expression of characters through robust physicality. However I feel the most notable part was the excellent music used, which floated across the play, conveying a real feel that the area was touched by magic, and not only followed the audience as they left at the end but is still lodged firmly in my head even now.
Matthew William Peters, 1741-1814
Near the Cell of Prospero
October 26, 2011
|Guildford Shakespeare Company|
July 26, 2010
|Krazy Kat Theatre|
November 2, 2009
April 4, 2009
|The Baxter Theatre Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company|
February 20, 2009
|Classic Stage Company|
September 17, 2008
|Darker Arts at The Rosemary Branch|
February 26, 2008
|Ragged Wing Ensemble|
January 27, 2007
|The Company of Ten|
January 26, 2007
|Royal Shakespeare Company|
August 18, 2006
|Adana Devlet Tiyatro|
December 17, 2004
|Chicago Shakespeare Theatre|
|Royal Shakespeare Company|
>> next reviews