"Elegant and stormy visual-led concept"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 01/05/16

A beautifully staged, movement-driven production with live music that supported a clear and immediate sense of Prospero’s island world. The concept had been well thought out visually and opened with a mime of the shipwreck that was appropriately frightening, with precision and creativity and intelligent use of space, lighting and live sound.

Sadly, those high stakes dropped with the storm. While the sense of place remained strong throughout, a somewhat apologetic attitude had been taken to the text itself: with the exception of the shipwreck, dialogue was slow with an overreliance on pauses and ‘air traffic directing’ where text analysis would have allowed actors a deeper understanding of character. Music and pauses became apologies for the text rather than celebration of how much it contains.

Emma Caller’s set and costume and Hedi Pinkerfield’s musical direction brought a visual clarity and originality that carried the atmosphere and gave a sense of reality that, unfortunately, the production’s relationship with the text would not have accomplished otherwise. A leaky fourth wall was overused: reasons for coming into and out of the audience were not always consistent. Starting ‘Full Fathom Five the song with the musicians outside rather than Ariel inside, was another example of drawing our attention to the technical rather than the story.

Robert Land’s Sebastian and Alexander Yousri’s Trinculo were delightfully involved whether or not the focus was on them; otherwise, there was a disconnect. The emotional life of this highly emotionally charged script felt more choreographed than directed. The space was large but the verse shape was not worked with so much as against, with a great deal of ‘traffic direction’ and overstating from Miranda who was insufficiently inhabiting herself and therefore her relationships. Prospero and she did not have the stakes for a relationship we could believe in and the lovers were not drawn to each other very deeply. Similarly, Prospero’s focus was all style and no emotional connection where Ariel was concerned. While having three Ariels draws an uncomfortable comparison with the Weird Sisters, the real problem was the lack of stakes for Ariel in her liberty: all three of her moved beautifully, but there was a severe lack of import in her deeds, their significance and potential results. Caliban too was more elegant than monstrous. To justify the name of Tempest we needed higher stakes.

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