www.reviewVancouver.org

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Dates and Venue 26 June 20 September 2008 @ 8pm | Bard on the Beach Studio Stage Tent, Vanier Park

Director Meg Roe Costume Designer Christine Reimer Lighting Designer John Webber Stage Manager Joanne P. B. Smith Sound Designer Alessandro Juliani

Reviewer John Jane


The Tempest is generally considered to be the final play that Shakespeare wrote entirely as a solo work. That being true, it is perhaps easy to accept that Prospero's ostensible control of the play's plot and the perspicacious knowledge of his destiny is actually a metaphor for the playwright’s own career.

Meg Roe, a former Shakespearean thespian herself, gets her directorial career off to a solid start with an efficient and highly entertaining adaptation of one of the Bard’s most ambiguous and controversial plays. Helped by a large cast, she presents this infamous tale of treachery, power-lust, romance and ultimate forgiveness with fervour and just about the right amount of mayhem and humour.

In the play’s stunning opening sequence, Prospero the exiled Duke of Milan (played with wizardly dominance by Allan Morgan) slams his staff down hard on the stage floor indicating that it’s he who has conjured up the storm that brings Alonso’s ship reluctantly to the island’s shore. The afflicted vessel is simply, yet effectively represented by a heavy rope held up by the cast to form the ship’s bow, while the King’s courtiers and crew are tossed around the deck at the mercy of Prospero’s tempest.

Prospero’s magical powers are more academic than substantive and it’s Ariel, the island's airy spirit who is his eyes and ears on the island that delivers the real sorcery. The role of Ariel is both androgynous and ambiguous. In This Bard on the Beach mounting, Jennifer Lines portrays the impish sprite with an enchanting pixie-ish charm. She/he is both loyal and self-serving and is prepared to be exploited by Prospero to achieve eventual freedom.

Prospero’s daughter Miranda (Julie McIssac) and Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Darren Dolynski) are naive over-eager lovers. Their relationship is initially manipulated by Prospero who sees the young prince as a worthy suitor, isolated from his shipmates he is charmed into falling in love with his daughter. Very little manipulation is necessary however, Miranda who has only ever seen two men in her life, her father and Caliban (a savage cave dweller) has not yet been tainted by civilization and so, easily becomes the object of Ferdinand’s affection.

The audience appeared to particularly enjoy the way Ferdinand struggles to move logs for Prospero (actually, the same log back and forth across the stage) and the petite Miranda, feeling sympathy for her beau, picks up the log and carries it with no apparent physical effort.

Aside from strong performances from the central characters, readings by some actors in supporting roles are also worth mentioning; such as Bob Frazer in the comically sensual portrayal of the physically grotesque Caliban and Russell Roberts as the cabalistic Gonzalo the king's sage advisor.

Alessandro Juliani’s soundscape was almost made redundant near the end of the evening performance, when real thunder could be heard over English Bay. His original score, however, certainly couldn’t be regarded as surplus. The Elizabethan themed incidental music, played live on stage, was in total concert with the play’s romantic Jacobean period setting.

The Tempest is a clever but unfussy production; thoroughly entertaining, it was received with delight by a responsive audience - It comes highly recommended.

© 2008 John Jane