Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Tom Finch
The Public Reviews Rating:
The Tempest is a tricky play. It lies somewhere in between comedy, romance, tragedy and drama. On paper it sounds like it has the perfect mix for an evening of entertainment, unfortunately all too often it can end up seeming like a bit of a mishmash of ideas. That was certainly the case in the production currently playing at the beautiful Watermill Theatre just outside of Newbury.
For those that don’t know the play, Prospero the former duke of Milan is living in exile on a mysterious island inhabited only by himself, his daughter Miranda and his slave Caliban. Having mastered the art of magic he conjures a storm which maroons his treacherous brother and his crew. Of course Miranda falls in love with one of the young men and various hijinks ensues.
The play throws us straight into the action, as a group of Italian nobles, on their ship find themselves in the middle of a tempestuous storm. Here in this scene the sumptuous musical score (composed by Olly Fox) superbly captures the frenetic energy and panic that this scene deserves. Somewhat confusingly the shipmates seemed to be having a chat rather than worrying that they were about to die in a shipwreck.
This is indicative of a major flaw of this production, almost the entire cast seemed, on the performance I saw at least to be flagging. A lack of energy throughout made it difficult to engage with the story and connect with the characters. Exceptions to this were Tim Chipping’s enigmatic, disturbing portrayal of Caliban and Johnson Willis whose high energy and nuanced performance as Gonzalo gave his lines a rich gravitas. Michael Hadley never quite managed to make Prospero a believable authoritative figure; his threats came across with a distinct lack of menace meaning that it was difficult to understand why his slave and servant seem to be in fear of him.
There is much to enjoy in this production however, Jemima Robinson’s tomb like set perfectly denotes the island and Prospero’s cell with some very nice touches along the way. Equally well designed are both the lighting and sound designs (Richard Howell & Steve Mayo respectively) which work in cahoots to create a truly all-encompassing environment. The musical sequences are simply stunning and all the cast deserve credit for their accomplished performance in these sections which bring some much needed energy to the evening. Special mention must be made to the underused Jessica Dyas who is a joy to watch during the wedding scene.
All in all this is certainly not a bad show and it could have been mid run blues but for much of the show I couldn’t help but feel the talented company were going through the motions and perhaps on a different evening the pace would be a little less languid. The production certainly has the power to be enchanting and maybe if the cast find a way to muster up some more energy it will be.
Runs until 3rd November 2012
The Tempest - The Watermill, Newbury,