Shakespeare’s play is given life in Simon Usher’s rather frustrating production that is extremely difficult to warm to.
Covering ill treatment, betrayal, revenge and magic arts, The Tempest might be classed as comedy – but this bleak production seems to suggest that there is something more sinister about it.
The Tempest is the story of Prospero, who was once the Duke of Milan but was overthrown by his brother Antonio, with the help of Alonso, King of Naples, and the King’s brother Sebastian – enemies of Prospero. Prospero then raises a storm once he realises that his enemies are close and shipwrecks them on the island he inhabits with his daughter and with the help of Ariel, he separates them and directs their wonderings on the island.
This might be the outline of the story, but sadly in this misjudged production, nothing about the plot is made very clear in Usher’s production which seems to be all over the place, set on Lee Newby’s rather grim version of the island.
But while the overall production might not work, there are still glimpses of the excellent production it could be. The basic set allows all of the audience’s attention to be placed on Shakespeare’s poetic language and the production as a result has a wonderful atmospheric and haunting vibe about it.
By placing much of the focus on the language, it also allows for many strong performances to shine through in particular Kevin McMonagle’s Prospero whose calm and grounded performance is magnetic, along with Hugh John as Ferdinand whose instant charm and down to earth nature brings to mind Eddie Redmayne’s approach to acting as well as Kristin Winters chilling, cold but powerful performance as Ariel. The problem is that it is very difficult to care about what is going on between the characters, with even the romantic plot line between Ferdinand and Miranda leaving the audience potentially quite cold.
The audience can not fully engage with what is happening as the production tends to feel too clinical and lacking in conviction that anyone who has never seen The Tempest performed on stage before will find it difficult to fully comprehend what is going on.
It is a gruelling couple of hours for audiences in terms of the production, but worth watching for some strong performances that come through.
The Tempest will appear at the Print Room at the Coronet until the 17th December. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.the-print-room.org/theatre/autumn-2016/the-tempest/