ROSY WISEMAN is beset by a heavy flow of tedium.
ADC Theatre, 5th-9th October, 7.45pm, £6-10
Directed by Mark Maugham & Finn Beames
Despite several assassinations attempted by, amongst others, a doddering English teacher and a new-age Warwickshire theatre troupe, The Tempest continues to be one of my favourite plays. Like those before it the CAST production received the text’s gifts graciously. Accordingly, Ferdinand’s gormless enquiry if Miranda be a sket or no and Prospero’s final aching plea to the audience were enjoyably gleeful and heart-breaking. But I expected more from a production which had been through 9 months of rehearsals and a transatlantic tour. As the directors so thoughtfully put it, I expected an “aesthetic environment to expand and invigorate the text’, or, in other words, a play.
Characters may have been played consistently, but this was overwhelmingly a curse rather than a blessing. Mark Fiddaman conveyed Caliban’s love for the island with the same expressions of shell-shocked angst as he did his hatred of Prospero. This, and his frankly libellous impression of an oil-slicked Bros brother, robbed one of the most beautiful passages of the play of its sadness and resonance. Miranda was convincing as a whimpering stereotype of a hormone soaked subscriber of Sugar, hungry to use her complimentary condom on the second man she has ever seen who is not her immediate relation.
Matt & Luke Goss, from Bros
Beyond these caricatures, the play lacks depth and never hits more than one unsatisfying note. Miranda and Prospero’s relationship never stimulates despite the father’s rather uncomfortable slip into voyeurism during his daughter’s courtship. How could two castaways, one a dealer in the occult and the other a bewitching princess, with only an unhinged fairy and a rapey slave for company, have remained so boring? Sadly, characters seem to be roughly assembled from discarded RSC stock, and, as such, rarely bring any depth to the play.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this production of The Tempest is that it is in many ways a tease. Anna Maguire’s Ariel, stood stock still in confrontation with Prospero, progresses seamlessly from petulance and pride to devastation and obedience. But this soon turns into a robotic perkiness which ceases to thrill. The interesting and fetishistic muslin and rope arrangements of the masque jar clumsily with broad pantomimetic gasps downstage.
Oliver Soden’s sonorous Prospero is undermined by the decision to demonstrate his anger through a static soundtrack. His performance, especially provoking towards his final goodbye, would have shone much more had it not played second fiddle to pre-war German techno. Bum-gazing slapstick pleased me, as it should everyone. But this, and other standout moments, did not save a play which, during Caliban’s ‘scurvy tune’ and Gonzalo’s possession by the spirit of a Jack Sparrow impersonator, made my heart race with embarrassment.