Paul Johnson | 18 May 2015 00:33am
It seemed a strange quirk of fate that I was heading for an island to watch a play about another island and a terrible storm. Luckily, my journey was bathed in beautiful sunshine, and not a tempest in sight.
I duly arrived at the Apollo theatre in Newport on the Isle of Wight and took my seat. The set was a wonder to behold; the whole stage had been turned into the courtyard of The Swan at Stratford ready for the local strolling players to perform the latest play from the quill of local lad William Shakespeare. The lights came up to a grey-blue setting and that is when The Tempest started in earnest. The wind howled to the point that I couldn’t hear the actors speaking, but everyone in the audience knew what they were saying, you could see it in the actors expressions. They were terrified that they were about to be ship-wrecked. What a start to a show – it was all about atmosphere.
On board the ship were Alonso, (the King of Naples), Sebastian, (Alonso’s brother), Ferdinand (Alonso’s son), Antonio, Gonzalo and a few others, on a journey home to Italy from the wedding of Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, to the prince of Tunis in Africa.
As we progressed to the island we find Prospero, who has just conjured up the storm, and his daughter Miranda. Prospero was just as Prospero should be, powerful, mystical, and masterful. You couldn’t fault Michael Arnell’s performance he grasped the audience the moment he entered and had them in his grip throughout. Miranda (Susan Simpson) was demure and had a wonderful air of innocence. She found sympathy and beauty in everyone she met as they appeared on the island. We were also introduced to Ariel, Prospero’s magic sprite. Ariel (Ginnie Orrey) had obviously been on the island much longer than was supposed – I have never seen a more mature Ariel in any other version of the play before, but she played it magnificently. The King and the various knights were all portrayed very well. Alonso (David Stradling) acted well as the regal King, and was convincingly humble at the end of the show when he was told by Prospero of his short-comings. Sebastian (Alex Howe) acted his part beautifully; you could almost feel the sliminess oozing out of him at times. Ferdinand (Jamie Carruthers) was well played as a vulnerable prince, and his scenes with Miranda were very touching. Antonio and Gonzallo were both played very well. Antonio (Alain Smith) was more than capable with his role. Gonzalo (Cheryl Barrett) was also more than capable. She looked very dwarfish in her costume, hat and splendid whiskers, and looked good when playing against Alonso, as their height difference complimented each other wonderfully.
Amy Burns as the drunken butler Stephano, was very good and looked a little more than convincing when tottering round in a tipsy state. Trinculo the King’s jester (Graham Brown) was also good. But unfortunately, Caliban (Danny Carmichael) although giving a few good interpretations of his character and wonderful expressions, was unintelligible – you couldn’t hear a word he said right through the show, due to the muttering noises he was making, and going off at a tangent at all times. Because of this, the scenes with the comedy trio of Caliban, Trinculo, and Staphano lacked pace. Good comedy should be quick-fire, but in this case it was quite laboured. Between scenes, there was some nice gentle, light comedy as Keith Larkin in the role of the Bosun, shifted the pieces of set and logs whilst engaging the audience with chit-chat. He proved to have a good presence for the odd ad-lib which provided some good comedic moments. The lighting and sound were excellent for the production and bought the whole show to life, thanks to Mike Whitehead and Dan Burns.
All in all it was a very good show and showed off the skill and vision of the director, Mike Whitehead, who also designed the wonderful set. I am looking forward to seeing some more of his directorial work sometime in the future. I always end my reviews by mentioning the actor that gave that little bit more and in my eyes, was the best of the cast… Well done Alex Howe as Sebastian.
- : admin
- : 15/05/2015