The Tempest

Wed 23rd – Sat 26th January 2013

reviews

Zoe Hunter Gordon

at 01:21 on 24th Jan 2013

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Shakespeare is hard. The Tempest, being neither a comedy nor a tragedy but a - gulp- “fantasy”, is even harder as nothing very unpredictable happens. Dramsoc’s production of The Tempest was fantastic in places, dull in others and ultimately focused too much on the more ambitious elements of the production and not enough on the script. It is clear that a huge amount of work had gone into certain aspects of the play.The language, however, the biggest challenge when performing Shakespeare, was in places poorly delivered, leaving the audience unmoved by what can be a witty and sparkling script. Nailing the meaning behind certain lines should have been the main priority before moving on to more adventurous undertakings; if the actors’ grasp of the play is not secure then the more creative elements can actually detract from the production rather than add to it, as was sadly the case here.

From the very start of the play, during the tempest itself, lines were being lost as the noise of the storm and the lighting forced the actors to shout; I barely made out “we split, we split!” – a crucial line! This happened quite a few times during the play, with many lines lost or attention diverted away from the actors by the live music, which was either too loud or simply unnecessary. Prospero’s monologues, for example, did not need the musical background- far from helping, it was a hindrance, drawing attention away from his excellent delivery. I wasn’t sure that the music was a necessary addition at any point in the production when played by the musicians off stage. However, Ariel's flute accompaniment to the famous Caliban speech, delivered beautifully by Lotte Tickner (“Be not afeard; this isle is full of noises” – think Olympic opening ceremony), was just right – a truIy gorgeous moment. I wish we could have seen more of this.

The production was carried by a few very strong performances from the lead actors who had a fantastic grasp of the text. Ariel, played by the stupidly talented Antonia Northam, almost stole the show with her otherworldly performance as the sprite. The physicality and grace that she brought to the role was honestly a pleasure to watch. Lotte Tickner as Caliban must be equally praised. Also (I have been told that this is Rosalind Russell’s doing), I must mention that the fantastic face makeup did not go unnoticed! Matt Lister, playing Prospero, gave fantastic deliveries of the numerous monologues, particularly the final soliloquy. The two “comics” of the play, Trinculo and Stephano played by Ollie Jones-Evans and Elliot Ross, were delightful to watch; their delivery was Shakespeare at his witty best with timing that conveyed the exact meaning of the lines to the audience perfectly. Credit must also be given to the directors Rosalind Russell and Lara Taylor for the hilarious moment when Stephano hopped up another step in order to be at a level height with Trinculo – ingenious.

More work could have been done on the love scenes between Ferdinand and Miranda and the earlier scenes between the various noblemen. I loved the 'jump' into Ferdinand’s arms we saw in the second half, however, this more realistic display of emotion should have been seen far earlier; Shakespeare’s script, rather “love at first sight”, is not easily translatable to a twenty first century audience but the director’s job is to make it believable. Both Miranda and Ferdinand sadly came across as particularly insipid, especially as Miranda is the only female character in the play – it would have been nice to have seen a lot more spark. The humour of the scene where we meet the noblemen was almost completely lost, which was a shame. More should have been done to ensure the audience was aware that Antonio and Sebastian were mocking Gonzalo; the delivery was quite bitter in places where the script is actually witty and jocular.

Overall, Dramsoc’s production of the Tempest was overly ambitious; more attention should’ve been given to characterisation and especially to delivery and the understanding of lines. However, with some truly spectacular performances from some of Bristol’s very best I would recommend it, though perhaps you’ll want to read it first.

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