Caliban's Codex

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this remarkable piece of writing and performance tells the story of an island and its former inhabitants through the experience of Caliban, a down-trodden, ill-treated creature of half human descent. Unlike The Tempest, our Caliban is portrayed as female and our only knowledge of the island’s former dwellers comes from her retelling in this one woman show.

The use of iambic pentameter was spectacular, both well written and well performed

The delivery was extremely intense, made more so by Caliban jumping up on tables and staring right into the audience’s eyes accusingly. The performance perfectly echoed the content of the writing and the intensity helped portray a monster who had suffered the most wretched life.

The use of iambic pentameter was spectacular, both well written and well performed. It gave the piece an unusually timeless quality, not too historic to be unintelligible but not contemporary enough to become quickly dated. Due to the pace, the audience had no choice but remain captivated as a slight distraction from the speech and you’d have been lost.

For most of the performance we were stunned into silence, afraid to make eye contact in case Caliban picked on you next. There was quite an unfortunate moment for a male audience member who was on the receiving end of her rant about impotent men, metaphorically of course but it did make the girl next to him giggle.

Setting the piece in a somewhat scruffy garden space at Sweet Werks 2 was actually a brilliant decision as the overgrown patch of grass and abandoned chairs at the back really did give the feel of an island that had been promptly deserted. The costume was well suited to the piece and the odd glimpse of text scrawled across it gave clues to the story the monster was telling.

The rage and mania in which the story was told might be too much for some audiences and it’s definitely not for the faint hearted; I would also not recommend accompanying an elderly relative, especially if you are prone to embarrassment.

For those not familiar with The Tempest, there is still a lot to enjoy, the way each character is described and the devastating effect they had on Caliban and the island were really gripping. Sycorax, a witch and Caliban’s mother, was painted in a particularly brutal light but it is Prospero, a powerful sorcerer and lover of books, who turns out to be the true monster.

The performance was laboured but impressively so and wouldn’t have done the character or script justice if performed otherwise. For an evening of mild entertainment this is the not the show but for excellent storytelling, exquisite writing and an abundance of magic, loss and despair, this performance really hit its mark.

Reviews by Bethan Troakes

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

"There is no welcome here for you, your kind. Mankind, for there is nothing kind in man." 'Caliban's Codex' is a new monologue by the writer John Knowles, created with Emily Carding ('Richard III' - Brite Theater). In the twelve years since Prospero's departure, Caliban has painstakingly sifted through the ashes of the books of magic, slowly piecing together a way to save his island from mankind's abuse. Inspired by 'The Tempest', and the rhythms of iambic pentameter, this one-woman show explores loss, abuse and magic, and is a disturbing insight into Caliban's world view.

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