Review: The Tempest at Stafford Castle

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Clare Prenton

Stafford Festival Shakespeare returns this year, producing the Bard’s final solo play. The Tempest is one piece of engaging theatre which is well crafted, full of substance and a hint of magic

In Director Clare Prenton’s words, “That is all we entertainers aim to do – to ‘please’ our audience” Pleasing the audience is precisely what happens.

Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban played by Johnathan Charles, James Hornsby  Zephryn Taitte make an excellent comedic trio. Their bond and connection lights up the stage and heightens the comedic moments in this production which at a few moments did get a bit stagnant.

Taitte’s performance mixed with Prenton’s interpretation of Caliban was particularly intriguing. No longer is he a deformed monster as many interpretations have insisted. Instead, he is a poor man forced into slavery and servitude. It works well and almost mirrors the performance by Ariel, played by Gavin Swift. He himself is a servant to Prospero, played by Stephen Beckett. Scott’s performance is a delight to watch. He is incredibly light on his feet and his confidence and playful nature alight the stage throughout.

Beckett also makes a very strong performance as Prospero. His commanding vocal ability is gripping, particularly in the second act as Prospero is tortured by the idea of giving up his magic.

The performance is set in the 1930’s and there is no getting away from that with the large front of a 1930’s cruise ship as the stage which is created by Frances Collier. Collier’s set acts as a playground for the actors; from the ring stage that is centre stage to the beautiful staircase leading up to the ship’s bell. Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell beautifully lights the performance and this shows more as night falls in front of the historic ruins of Stafford Castle

There were a few actor-musicians on stage but it would have been nice to see and hear a lot more live music. The blending of live and recorded music and delivery made it a little difficult to fully appreciate Shakespeare’s beautifully crafted script at a few moments and this could have been avoided.

Morgan & West are illusion consultants for the production and have crafted some clever tricks – the most impressive is left until last. The RSC late last year took the lead in developing some very hi-tech work on their adaptation of the Tempest but the team at Stafford Festival Shakespeare show sometimes the classic tricks really can be just as effective.

This classic production sometimes does have parts that could do with tightening up but mostly it is a truly engaging and accessible piece of theatre. The 1930s setting adds to the production and sets it well and under Prenton’s direction the performance is fresh, clean and delves deep to create a unique night of Shakespeare.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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