An embittered old man stripped of his dukedom and banished to a magical island full of spirits, performs his final trick so that he and his daughter may return home…
As with any Shakespeare play there have been countless productions of The Tempest, so any new adaptation has to either be impeccable, or bring something new to the story. Director Alice Sillett was fully aware of the challenges she faced with The Tempest, but was determined to give it her own spin (and puppetry).
Although I played Miranda twice (once with a Prospera) several years ago, I’ve never actually seen a performance of The Tempest so I was intrigued to see how Tree Folk Theatre would attack it.
But attack it they did. Combining folk music, puppets and physical theatre, they brought it to life and made it – dare I say it – quirky! The first act was a bit slow, and several speeches were inaudible, but they gradually found their energy and it went from strength to strength.
Maia Kirkman-Richards as Prospero was one actor who took a while to warm up and the casting seemed surprising. However, she eventually got into her stride and Prospero’s final speech was delivered with real passion and emotion.
Isabel Sharman (Miranda) was consistently adorable and naive, bringing a more innocent and elfin quality to the role. She and Ferdinand (Ross McNamara, who puts my own Ferdinands to shame) play a more central role in this production and their chemistry was lovely to watch. The performances by Amy Lawrence (Ariel) and Jannik Archer (Caliban) also stood out.
Although staging was simple, books were used cleverly as the island’s spirits. Some of the puppetry was a bit too similar to Blood Wedding and I didn’t feel that Prospero’s ‘mask’ was essential (although it served its purpose well during the final speech), but Caliban was done incredibly well, making him less of a monster to be feared, and more a lost soul to be pitied.
The folksy music was a nice touch, especially as the cast all performed on various instruments, and this performance would actually work well – if not better – in an outdoor venue.
It isn’t perfect and the cast takes a bit too long to find its feet, but this production still casts a spell over its audience, challenging them to enjoy the humour of Shakespeare without even realising it.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
The Tempest is running at the Cockpit Theatre until 3 August 2014. Click here for tickets