The Tempest review: Electrifying Shakespeare
Layla Chowdhury flips Shakespeare’s most surreal play on its head
Sightline and Suffragette’s production of The Tempest was one shrouded with mystery, enchanting characters and overt anti-colonial sentiments.
The set was filled with an array of iridescent lighting and eastern garments which was complimented by impressive make-up and wardrobe choices. Before the play began, the spirits unashamedly got right up in the audience’s faces, creating a slightly disturbing precedent to the play.
Shakespeare was certainly taken liberty with, and the entrance of a "Prospera", although foreseen, took some working out: how do we react to a "tyrant" who in some ways is subject to tyranny by virtue of her gender?
Florence Petrie handled the role of Prospera with clear control, adapting deftly to appearing more sympathetic in the the closing Act.
She was well supported by a highly energetic cast who successfully managed to bring the un-canonical aspects of the play to light. The ritualised dancing, inspired by eastern techniques, was a joy to watch, and the three converging plot groups maintained a strong level of chemistry. Ferdinand and Miranda appeared as their youthful selves, and the hickie on Aaron Rozanski’s neck was a humours directorial choice.
The scenes in Caliban’s cave displayed a well thought out interplay between the comedic drunken members of the shipwrecked party and Sophie Cullis’ unnerving depiction of Prospero’s ragged, submissive servant. She, along with the other spirits, appeared crab-like, wide-eyed and somewhat craftily witty, in contrast to the white-shirted Italians. The decision to split Ariel into a tripartite role proved an interesting insight into the psyche of the oppressed; they almost seemed to invoke the rhythms and voice of the Jungle Book’s Kaa.
Perhaps the weakest point of the production lay with the depiction of the Italians. While they brought to light the themes of national expansion and political betrayal with succinct elocution, their scenes lacked the brightness of the rest of the production and threatened to detract from the overall piece. Perhaps a tighter sense of unity between the spirits and the Italians could have benefitted the play. That said, though the choreography of the dance scenes was explosive and entertaining, the initial shipwreck scene seemed cluttered and overcrowded, perhaps in need of more attention towards the plight of those on board rather than the islanders.
As one of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Tempest is electric, fast-paced and bursting with questions regarding authoritarian colonisation. Layla Chowdhury’s take on it successfully addressed all these, and though there are several pitfalls, this short, snappy production makes for enjoyable viewing.