Pros: All the advantages of being outside in a garden space helping to create a magical atmosphere – flowers, breeze, full moon in a clear sky.
Cons: All the disadvantages of being outside in a garden space, spoiling the magical atmosphere – pollen, noises off, helicopters.
Right in the heart of Covent Garden, St Paul’s Church Yard is a cool space even on one of the hottest days of the summer, shade provided by the surrounding buildings and a gentle breeze. Being in a magical garden in the middle of central London is rather like being transported to a magical isle. There are the obvious benefits of being outside surrounded by roses, hollyhocks and the like, but it does come with some disadvantages: hay fever sufferers beware. The noise from Covent Garden makes it difficult to hear some dialogue at the beginning; birds flying about, bits of trees raining down landing on head and face, even a helicopter at one point, made concentration that much more difficult.
This traditional offering of The Tempest has Jamie Newall playing Prospero as a quietly sinister and vengeful mage. Charlotte Christensen as the ethereal Ariel, with a lovely singing voice and also playing flute and recorder, steals the show. The rest of the cast play multiple roles with quick changes of costume, stance and accent. Anna Sances’ costumes provide clues to the nature of the different characters while allowing for the quick changes. Ariel’s blue getup, bright face paint, glitter and wings sets her apart from the others. The sound system is unobtrusively set up around the performance space, providing a constant background adding to the atmosphere and an essential part of the storm and shipwreck. I enjoyed the use of music, song and dance throughout.
It is a promenade performance, so don’t get too comfortable on the hard wooden benches (as if). You will be told to ‘follow’ on several occasions, requiring a short stroll to different parts of the grounds, at one point into the church itself. The set makes good use of the available performance space, with an intriguing construction containing hidden trapdoors and stairs. You are never very far from the action, with the performers sometimes moving around within the audience.
The drunken revelries between Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano are comedic, and the celebratory masque with Paul Brendan and Reginald Edwards is more like ugly sisters in a panto than imperious goddesses Juno and Ceres. And watch out for Miranda’s reactions to some of her father’s pronouncements.
The programme has some interesting background information on the influence of stage designer Inigo Jones, who also built the church, along with some history and context on the use of The Masque in theatre all of which added to the enjoyment of the evening despite it being a bit chilly.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Daniel Winder
Associate Director and Magic Consultant: Andrew Room
Production Manager: Jake Evans
Musical Director: Tim Shaw
Box Office: 0207 240 0344
Booking Link: firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking Until: 28 July 2018