Pros: Great acting and an interesting interpretation.
Cons: I felt that the dance routines were not necessary and detracted from the rest of the production.
The Tempest was one of the last plays William Shakespeare wrote before he laid down his pen. Set on an island after a shipwreck, the play centres around Prospero (Tom Keller) the usurped Duke of Milan and his desire to put right the wrongs of the past. Using magic he has mastered from books, he causes the storm to bring his adversaries to him. As with many of Shakespeare’s plays there are many facets to the piece; drama, love, humour and plenty of complicated relationships. This production tackles all of them expertly.
As soon as you enter Waterloo East Theatre, you realise you are going to experience a completely different production from that of traditional readings of The Tempest. This version, adapted and directed by Sarah Redmund is set in the future. The aforementioned island has been replaced by London’s Southbank and the only hint of Italy is on the Milan football shirt that Prospero is wearing.
Designed by Daniel Gillingwater the stage is swathed in blue drapes. Miranda is seated in a tin bath, there are crates placed around the stage and the sprite Ariel (Chipo Kureya) is hung over the entrance in a fishing net. This is no island but it is clear from the outset that we have a watery theme.
Tom Keller leads this cast as Prospero, and his daughter Miranda is played by Rebecca Hazel, whose reactions when she first meets people of the opposite sex really made me giggle. Ferdinand is her love interest though and he is ably played by Guy Woolf. Drunken comedy moments were brought by Matthew Harper, Sy Thomas and Lucy Harwood playing Caliban, Stephano, and Trincula respectively and yes, a female Trincula with an Essex accent does actually work really well! The outstanding Chipo Kureya playing Ariel is definitely one to watch though. This is her first Shakespearian performance and surely not her last.
The only thing I felt failed was the production’s ambitiousness and tendency to try to be too clever and modern. I felt the choreography and music used during the shipwreck scene worked very well but the all too short second act was blighted by song and dance which seemed out of place. When Prospero summons the sprites to perform a masque for the star-crossed lovers it unfortunately comes across as a lap-dance in a sleazy nightclub.
I had not seen The Tempest performed before and this was a great introduction to the play. I have a theory about Shakespeare: if a production is done well then there is no better writing – you can understand and follow every word. Shakespeare done badly makes a very tedious night. This abridged version made me hungry to see the full play, I only hope it would be as good as this one.
The Tempest is playing at the Waterloo East Theatre until 26th October. It was my first visit to this venue and I was delighted to find how accessible it is. It is only 2 minutes walk from Waterloo Station. I shall look forward to further visits.
Adapted and Directed by: Sarah Redmund
Designer: Daniel Gillingwater
Lighting: Tom Kitney
Choreography: Christian Valle
Booking until: 26th October
Theatre Box Office: 020 7928 0060
Booking Link: https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk