Even before it starts you are drawn in as you are given a bag with a story booklet inside, and you are invited to decorate your bag with the coloured pencils provided. While some people may not have a chance to read it before the performance begins, the booklet itself is really lovely, with richly, well-written text and sometimes funny short pieces. When the tale begins, straight away we are all involved as one of the children is asked to volunteer to read the story to the group. Here we learn that we are the people from the land of Fire and Ice, there has been a massive war on our island which has destroyed our homes and our livelihoods and the land itself - we have had no choice but to flee. All we have is what we are standing in; we have no passports, no money, no possessions. We don’t know where we will land, whether the people will be friendly or not, or whether they will even speak the same language as us.
A brilliant, immersive, moving, almost promenade theatrical experience.
Of course, this can be taken on so many levels by participants and that is obviously the point. Younger children will see the adventure in the tale, whereas the adults cannot help but be moved by the poignancy of a narrative which is factual to so many people in the world. Suddenly, we all have a direct link to the disenfranchised; we empathise with them, even while the children in the group are having fun thereby ensuring the message is not hammered home, but gently delivered.
Using our map as a guide, we first meet Miranda, who speaks a strange language at first which we can’t understand. We spend some fun time being taught the language of this island where we have landed and suddenly we can understand each other. Here she talks about the other inhabitants of the Island: Caliban the monster and master builder; Prospero, her mother, the most powerful wizard ever known and sometimes nice and sometimes a dictator; and lastly Ariel the fairy who has been enslaved by Prospero, but still has magic. Here the peppered use of Shakespeare’s The Tempest works brilliantly to entertain, as the characters talk directly to everyone in our own personal theatrical experience and the children contribute and carve out the story, making each show unique. Each character, placed in a different area, knows our particular story and picks up where the previous one left off. It’s a special touch which makes the whole experience cohesive. There are little story cards en route continuously, which keep everyone entertained and there's treasure to find, which we then give to the different players to unlock secrets.
The actors are absolutely committed to their roles and utterly confident in dealing with all manner of contributions. They are funny and bright and involve everything around them, including random noises in the open air. They hold the attention of everyone and get us all doing things. Caliban’s physicality was particularly impressive and truthful in his portrayal as well as very funny. The use of Shakespeare’s original text in Caliban’s 'blessing' and in Ariel’s song – which he sang with a ukulele, was a really pleasing and unexpected touch. The message that Ariel leaves us with and the ending are especially emotive moments and truly lovely. This is a brilliant, immersive, moving, almost promenade theatrical experience which impacts everyone involved, children and adults alike.