BWW Review: THE TEMPEST, Royal and Derngate, June 30
A co-production of THE TEMPEST with the National Youth Theatre is the latest production in Royal and Derngate's Made in Northampton season and their celebrations to mark Shakespeare 400, as well as being part of NYT's 60th year. In theory, THE TEMPEST is a tricky proposition for an ensemble of 18 to 25 year olds, but Rebecca Lenkiewicz has dealt with this by converting Prospero to Prosper - sister to Miranda and Anton. Likewise Alonso, Ferdinand and Simona (Sebastian) are siblings and this works very well. Not enforced by age is the decision to have six actors play Ariel - I was initially sceptical of this move, but actually having a gang of Ariels creating mischief and trouble proved remarkably effective.
Prosper's island is a post-industrial wasteland with a distinct air of shipping containers. Muted colours and Eighties paint effects leave the actors to do all the heavy lifting. And for the most part they shine. Jay Mailer's Ferdinand is a comic joy, although Joe Law's Trinculo runs him close. Beth Markey makes a dreamy but not irritating Miranda and Gabriel Akamo's Caliban is suitably rage-filled at being enslaved as his island is colonised by Prosper. If anything Sophie Walter gives the magician a little too much, if she had just reined Prosper back a little I could have found hardly any faults with this production at all.
And that's because this TEMPEST is remarkably successful. It moves swiftly and has a few surprising moments to keep you engrossed. My companion - who claims THE TEMPEST as her favourite Shakespeare and has seen around 15 different productions over the years - was impressed with the staging and the performances. Our quibbles were all minor - a tweak here, a director's note there - for the most part this youthful ensemble carried this off with aplomb. I hope to see more of them in years to come as they mature and grow - their performances in this should certainly give them confidence for the future.
THE TEMPEST is at Royal and Derngate in Northampton until July 2.
Photo Credit: Richard Davenport.