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The Tempest (Susan Elkin reviews)

30 June, Courtyard of George Hotel, Huntingdon


Lynne Livingstone’s lithe, quavering Ariel wafts continuously as if she were a strand of rippling seaweed: ‘full fathom five’ indeed. She sings the songs with lyrical sweetness and gives us a pretty scary harpy. It’s a memorable performance and it’s a directorial (John Shippey) inspiration to surround her with four subordinate spirits because it means the Ariel voice can come from different angles for the confusion of other characters. It’s all very otherworldly and sets the tone for an interesting production.

Martin Woodruff takes a while to warm up as Prospero and presumably it was heighted stage fright on “VIP night” which triggered no fewer than three separate ‘dries’. In the second half, though, he finds the authoritative dignity the part requires and all the set piece speeches are moving.

Among other notable performances is Richard Sockett whose drunken, self-interested larger-than-life Stephano is very strong indeed. Liz Barka is funny as a rueful, comical Trincula lusting after Stephano who fails to notice, And Richard Brown’s dirty, bowed, bullied Caliban never lets us forget that this play is partly about oppression and abuse of power. The three are a joy to watch together because each listens to, and plays off, the others with commensurate professionalism.

The trouble is that the comic romp scenes are so strong that other scenes sometimes seem dull, especially the ones featuring the shipwrecked nobles which drag a little. Having said that, though, it’s good to see some healthy gender blind casting giving us Queen Alonsa and Antonia. It changes the dynamic which makes for fresh interest.

Also very encouraging is India Barton in her first Shakespeare role as Miranda. She speaks the verse with intelligent elegance and gets just the right blend of pretty innocence with excitement when she first sees her Ferdinand (James Barwise – suitably dishy).

The Jacobean courtyard at The George, festooned on this occasion in garlands with a scenic artist’s copy of Rousseau’s Storm in a Tropical Forest at the very back, is – as always– an ideal setting. It manages to be both intimate and immersive without ever being gimmicky. I’m already looking forward to Pericles next year and Richard III in 2018.

 Originally published by Sardines
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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