The Tempest is a play about magic and mystery - the soul and the nature of performance - believed by many to be Shakespeare’s last ever play, thus signalling his farewell to the theatre. Magic and the supernatural pervaded the entire play and were, on the whole, done with a beautiful sense of grace and subtlety. The magical creatures (the sprites, Ariel, and Caliban) wore opaque contact lenses, giving them an alien allure. In addition, the sense of magical control that is evident in some sequences during the play was brilliantly choreographed and executed with no physical contact being made, but with the overriding power being easily demonstrated. This was most evident during the shipwreck scene with Ariel representing the stern of the boat and the sprites later entering to scatter the sailors around the island.
Much attentive editing has enabled the play to strike the right balance between the comedic subplot and the main storyline as dictated by Prospero, while still carefully guiding the audience through the twisting plots and keeping pace throughout. The comedic trio of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban were undoubtedly audience favourites. They were greeted with rapturous laughter and the carefully crafted nature of their scenes kept them on the right side of farcical. Their ability to demonstrate what was being said through actions and expressions meant they were able to successfully update the comedic references to the present day. Luke Hornsby Smith, as Caliban, was undoubtedly a masterful performance; his physicality and nuanced depiction of the creature repeatedly referred to as a ‘monster’ was the source of much empathy, and I was captivated by his interpretation throughout.
However, some of the directorial choices were problematic. Miranda’s deep fascination with mankind was necessary, but began to stray beyond the realm of believability by the end of the play. The sprites, whose costumes and hair ribbons were beautifully designed to represent the elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, with Ariel as an amalgamation of all four, didn’t need to screech so much as it quickly became quite grating.
This is an immensely talented and highly experienced company whose enthusiasm and energy for performing was palpable throughout the production. A highly accomplished adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s longer and more complex plays.