The Tempest

Back in the 1700s, when David Garrick ruled the stage and was bringing about a Shakespeare revival, the Bard’s plays would frequently be adapted. Entire scenes would be cut to shorten run times and even endings would be changed (King Lear, for example, would more often than not end happily.) N6, therefore, has strong precedent behind them when they strip back The Tempest to an hour and a half performance. Their abridgement is very well done - it is the production itself that is more problematic.

In abridging The Tempest N6 has made the choice to cut individual lines here and there, rather than entire scenes. This works well for the production as a whole, as it presents a complete portrayal of the show without the usual lengthy run-time. Very few of the nuances of the play, even, are lost in its truncation.

The actors, too, put forward solid performances. Connor Whitemore presents an appropriate mix of disturbing and pathetic in his representation of Caliban, Tom Stephens as Prospero seems wise beyond his years, while both Miranda Zeffman and Dan Edge give off a sense of pastoral innocence which perfectly captures Miranda and Ferdinand. If Charlotte Holtum doesn’t quite convey the essence of the etherial that is Ariel (opting more for slightly creepy) - there are very few who can - and her strong voice certainly suits the many singing parts Ariel has.

Where this performance becomes problematic is in the sights and sounds. As Shakespeare plays go, The Tempest is practically a musical. Not only are there songs laced throughout the whole, there are also numerous stage directions relating to sound - this from the man who hardly ever gave out stage directions at all. This is a production that calls for thunder, lightning, full bands with tabor and pipes. Granted, N6’s production did have a small selection of instruments in-house, but more often the music was simple singing and sound effects were discarded.

Likewise, the visuals were also heavily reduced. Scenes where Ariel brings in terrible apparitions and spirits were done by bringing on other actors with small masks. Not quite the startling apparition of hordes of monsters one has come to expect from this particular play.

This version of The Tempest is very aware that it is a much scaled-down production. With only a wedge of a stage decorated with a box and some cloths, the company chose to do a small-scale performance. With such skilled abridging and good acting they have succeeded quite well in this endeavor, however, it would have been nice to see them apply these talents to a show more fitted for minimalism than The Tempest is.

Reviews by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins

Performances

The Blurb

n6 productions return to the Fringe with their stripped back, claustrophobic production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Featuring live music, singing and dancing, this is such stuff as dreams are made on.