"Magical marionette version of Tempest"
by Coco Hall for remotegoat on 13/11/10

It's a dark and rainy November night as we make our way to the Puppet Barge in Little Venice. We walk down a dark, slippery iron staircase then wander along the towpath to the barge, which is lit up with a strand of ropelights.

We go inside, careful not to hit our heads on the low ceilings of the barge and take our seats in the surprisingly large auditorium. The stage is covered with a rippling white veil, behind it a lantern swings and the sound of a storm is heard.

We sit expectantly for the show, having only the vaguest memory of the plot of The Tempest. The audience fills up with adults, some giggling with nervous excitement. It's not as cold as we thought a barge on the river would be on a rainy evening, in fact it's not really cold at all and a slight chill adds to the authentic feel of being in a storm.

The sound of the storm increases to a gale and the lights flash on and off as lightning. It's atmospheric and spooky and within 5 minutes we are transported to a world of childhood where cynicism is left at the door and we are able to delight in a rare magical experience not often afforded to adult eyes.

For the first few minutes seeing the puppeteers above the stage is distracting, but they quickly vanish as their marionettes take over. The puppets are a strange mix of beautiful and expressionless. They don't have eyes like a doll would, which is a rather disconcerting. But in the skillful hands of the puppeteers they are given emotions and life through their gestures and bearing.

The story of the Tempest is condensed into just under two hours of magic. There are some surprisingly scary moments. Ariel is a truly ethereal being, see-through and shiny. Some well known actors (Kenneth Griffin and Roger Lloyd Pack) provide the voices. The sets are simple but atmospheric. Though at the beginning the sound seems a little bit shaky and the second half feels a bit abridged, overall this a wonderful experience for adults and children alike.

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