September 11, 2006, by Peter Kirwan
The Tempest (Guildhall) @ The Swan Theatre
Firstly, it was really nice to see quite a few of the cast of the current RSC production of ‘The Tempest’ at this school’s performance by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama- it must be interesting to go and see a different take on the play you’re doing, and it’s nice to see actors attached to particular productions supporting the festival by seeing other works.
This was a well-worked and well-edited production of ‘The Tempest’, a snappy edit that didn’t cut anything major, but condensed itself well. The storm scene was a very short piece of choreography, the actors holding up a blue drape and shaking it back and forth until all bursting away from it and offstage. Likewise, the masque was turned into a short dance that ended abruptly with Prospero’s memory of the plot.
Possibly the biggest innovation was having Ariel played by two actors, one male and one female, who danced and floated about the stage, finishing each other’s sentences and working as a unified pair. It allowed for some beautiful moments of split personality- on their freedom, one Ariel stood staring at Prospero in disbelief and admiration, while the other plucked at his arm and led him offstage.
Much fun was had with the clowing scenes, Trinculo in particular cast as a sorrowful and downtrodden sub-servant to the smarter Stephano. In contrast, Sebastian was unusually aggressive and Antonio full of slightly camp evil, those scenes maintaining more menace than I’d expected. A female Gonzalo (Gonzala!) added a different dimension to the character too, now a nagging woman rather than a boring old man- but with a feminine tender care of Prospero and Alonso.
A good production, and one that would be easily comprehensible to schools. My one complaint would be that the music- played from behind the audience to accompany some scenes- drowned out the actors for those of us sitting in the rear, but that aside it was a thoughtful and entertaining version of the play.