BWW Review: THE TEMPEST, Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, York
After its inaugural stint in York last year, Shakespeare's Rose Theatre and its adjoining Shakespearean village have returned to the foot of Clifford's Tower for another two months dedicated to the Bard.
Philip Franks' take on The Tempest is one of four productions playing in rep at the theatre over the summer (the others being Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Henry V). Franks builds on the magic and mystery at the heart of The Tempest in a production which takes a while to find its groove, but is not without a healthy smattering of captivating moments.
Adrian Linford's steampunk-tinged costume design serves as the stylistic underpinning for the production and is one of its true successes. The clash of Edwardian styles and modern, fantasy-influenced accents such as shredded dresses and aviator goggles drives the sense of otherworldliness that defines The Tempest.
Paul Pyant's lighting design, composer Christopher Madin's score and Linford's scenic choices combine harmoniously on several memorable occasions. Miranda and Ferdinand's wedding is a heady romantic haze of dusky-pink smoke and petals floating in the air, while Ariel's appearance as a harpy with oversized head and wings in tow is a striking image and darkly atmospheric.
The performances are a slightly more mixed bag. Leander Deeny gives a standout performance as the spirit Ariel, impishly flitting about the stage with equal parts mischievous delight and tortured melancholy. He is charmingly ethereal, but also draws many of the biggest laughs.
Peter Moreton and Christopher Logan give two brilliant comedic turns as Stephano and Trinculo respectively, bringing Shakespeare's verse to life in the midst of drunken capers and messy brawls courtesy of fight director Jonathan Holby. Maggie Bain and Alexander Knox play off each other entertainingly as the scheming Antonia and hapless Prince Ferdinand.
Alexandra Guelff as Miranda and Sam Callis as Prospero have a slow start - at times the verse feels typically 'Shakespearean', a little one-note and predictably performed. As their scenes thread many of the subplots together, the story can become difficult to follow and feels a little unevenly paced. However, Callis in particular grows into his role in the second half and ends the play with a couple of strong monologues.
Ultimately, the Rose's The Tempest wows with some stunning visuals and a handful of masterful performances. Although it may not maintain the magic from beginning to end, there's enough enchantment in there to make it worth a visit, and the setting makes it a theatre experience like few others in a city brimming with theatrical history.
Photo credit: Shakespeare's Rose Theatre