Not a term goes by without one of Shakespeare’s plays being staged outdoors with varying degrees of excess. Director Liv Robinson made a wise choice in selecting Shakespeare’s final play to be staged al fresco since The Tempest so heavily relies on what Robinson calls “exposure to nature and to the elements”. Much has been made of the socio-historical and political context of this play, but Robinson deliberately chooses to put greatest emphasis on the psychological shifts undergone by the protagonists. This also explains the occasionally bizarre costumes, designed to reflect each character’s personality rather than traditional Elizabethan dress. This emphasis on character means that the play’s success or failure depends solely on the strength of the actors, and since Prospero is the central figure the burden is largely on his shoulders. It’s an unenviable task, and whilst Basher Savage tackles the part with admirable effort, he falls just short of stirring the audience. Stalking around the stage as if he’s participating in a master class instead of fully immersing himself in the complex psyche of one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic protagonists, Savage doesn’t quite capture the power of Prospero. However, Ben Var der Velde is successful in his enraged yet sensitive portrayal of the monstrous Caliban, whilst Fiona Pearce delivers a refreshing performance of Ariel, miraculously breathing mischief into whichever scene she floats.Yet it is the farcical drunkards, Stephano and Trinculo (spiritedly played by Kieran Pugh and Iain Drennan) who steal the show and move the audience to laughter, alleviating the slightly monotonous mood of Prospero’s scenes. This is a charming production of one of Shakespeare’s more challenging plays, but it ultimately lacks the spark to make it truly magical.
ARCHIVE: 3rd Week TT 2003

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