The Steiner Theatre
Director: Geoff Norris
Music Composition: Hedi Pinkerfield
The Tempest is being performed at The Steiner Theatre from the 28th-30th of April at 7:30 with a matinee performance at 3pm on the 30th of April.
It is not my intention to review The Tempest, there are shelves of books who will do that far better than I, but to focus on this production of The Tempest. As each Director attempts to bring something new to the story of Prospero, surely this becomes an increasingly difficult task. So, as the house lights dim and strange etherial music begins to fill the auditorium we are taken to a ship on the high seas that is about to become a boat under the high seas...
Before that though, the music! In this production of The Tempest the renowned composer Hedi Pinkerfield has composed a score that features throughout the play. When I say throughout I mean that it's a constant companion to the scenes being performed. Strange, etheric sounds fill the stage and float around the audience and my immediate concern was that this would prove too great a distraction. My fears were unfounded as, once they are accepted, the almost otherworldly quality of the sounds and snatched riffs really succeed in underlining the spiritual qualities of the island. In the case of the opening scene, bangs and crashes from percussive instruments really do add to the image of a ship that is becoming an ex ship. Pinkerfield's sublime scoring throughout the play adds to the action and emotion on stage without ever threatening to overwhelm it. I have never seen a production of The Tempest which moves so successfully away from using period musical instruments of the era Shakespeare wrote in. A bold and strident move but one that really does work.
The cast for The Tempest are an international delight and expertly bring to life every emotional delicacy that is available to be tasted. This sounds like an overly flowery statement to make but it is one that is perfectly appropriate. Richie Donaldson's Prospero has the depth and emotional power of a man that has long ago slain his past demons but, and at the same time, demonstrates his
world weariness. Here to is a deep love for his daughter, Miranda, and I delighted in the scenes where he lovingly tells the story of how they came to live on the island. Miranda, brought to vivid and stunning life by Italian actress, Elena Mazzon. I have enjoyed some of Elena's previous productions and always love the emotional intensity she brings to her performance. Samuel Mattioli's Ferdinand is simply a wonder and his dizzying, almost drunken stupor, on learning the news that Miranda is in love with him lit up the stage. Manish Srivastava is appropriately oafish as the slow witted, Calaban, yet evokes tremendous sympathy as a character who just wants to escape the shackles of slavery. Drunken comic relief is provided by Michael Claff and Alexander Yousri in their portrayals of Stephano and Trinculo respectively provided many comedic moments. The dastardly and quick witted Antonio is brought to acerbic life by Eshy Moyo and his scenes with Sebastian, Robert Land, are both funny and intense. Their planned betrayal of the irritatingly wordy Gonzalo, turncoat and weasel, is devious but perhaps understandable if only to cease the man's incessant prattling. Ted Duran is strident and true in his performance of Alonso and it is his scenes with Prospero that provide an emotional resonance.
It is the decision to divide the central character, Ariel, into three that drew my particular attention. Lindsey Jacobs, Aisha Kent and Bowy Goudkamp are magnificent whether on stage as ensemble Ariel or divided into literally their separate elements (Earth, Wind and Fire) For me, this is a very welcome and innovative take on the mischievous Ariel and is one that is effectively performed. There were only a few occasions where Ariel's lines were obscured by three actresses speaking them together. Whilst this isn't a criticism of the three actresses, it is a risk of portraying the character in such a bold and original manner. Lindsey, Aisha and Bowy portray the individual dimensions to Ariel so strikingly and so individually it is a risk that I am delighted was undertaken and it brings an entirely new dimension to The Tempest.
This is an absolute triumph and the most effective production of The Tempest that I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I simply cannot find anything that I didn't enjoy about it! It serves as a glorious example of what can be achieved with a talented cast and assured direction to anyone that enjoys fantastic Theatre. I hope that those who had long given up on Shakespeare's work as a closed book to them will go and see this production. Perhaps The Bard's work isn't as inaccessible as you had previously believed!