LEO PARKER-REES isn’t angry, he’s just disappointed.
Newnham Old Labs, 15th – 18th February, 7.30pm, £4-5
Directed by Clare Mohan
It’s sometimes refreshing to see theatre performed away from the ADC or Corpus Playrooms. Sometimes it’s nice to see a production with a low budget, where the focus is on the cast rather than impressive props and scenery. But this Tempest wasn’t refreshing, and though the bare stage created a sizeable gap in the clouds, nobody really shined.
Shakespeare without gimmicks is good, but this seemed overly lacking. It just didn’t leave an impression, and I left wondering what the idea behind it had been. Facebook promised me a show bursting with colour, featuring original music and choreography. There was a bit of colour. One of the Ariels was blue. One was black. Prospero’s staff and robe had some colourful cloth tied to it. Which was nice, I suppose, but not enough to base a production on.
The choreography was fine, with fairly complex sequences nicely synchronised on the whole. The dancing spirits all had colourful rags tied to them, with painted-on eye masks, but they didn’t dance often, and when they did it seemed to go on just a little too long. The music didn’t seem to fit, and whoever was playing it must have been unable to see the stage, because almost every cue was missed.
The acting was, on the whole, pretty poor. Prospero (Julian Mack) was OK, but a little flat. Most of his lines were delivered in the same sort-of-a-whisper, and he really failed to take advantage of some of Shakespeare’s best speeches. Claudia Grigg-Edo gave a fairly strong performance as Miranda, and Hafsa Zayyan’s Caliban was a highlight of the evening, if occasionally overdone.
Lucy Butterfield had a walking stick to show that Gonzalo is old. She didn’t give a bad performance, but she didn’t act old. She just had a stick. The stick was only slightly more wooden than Will Spencer’s Alonso, who remained as emotionless at (SPOILERS) discovering his son un-drowned as he had been throughout. No reaction whatsoever.
Stephano and Trinculo (Daniel Fulvio and Clare Mohan) were a bit of a mess. They mixed up and stumbled through lines, and in one particularly painful moment, made them up (unless Shakespeare did, in fact, write about ‘yer mum’). Mohan left little impression, and Fulvio didn’t seem to know what he was saying or doing, apparently replacing drunk acting with drawn-out droney moaning.
The stage surrounded by audience members on all sides was interesting, and the tricky blocking this necessitated was mostly done well, but that isn’t enough to make a show. When the theme is ‘colourful’, the acting needs to be very, very good, and it wasn’t. It was under-directed, and drew attention to the production’s lack of ambition. There were some recorded songs and colourful rags. There were some pretty good dancers who danced a few times. There were two Ariels. It takes more than that.