The Tempest by William Shakespeare
St. Paul’s Church Covent Garden
Runs 2 hr 15 including a 15 minute interval
Review Info: Veronica Stein, 28 June 2018. @ReviewsGate
Changing locations and some excellent performances
Hidden away in the bustle of Covent Garden is the courtyard of St. Paul’s Church, wherein flowers are growing alongside the Iris Theatre’s first offering of the summer season: The Tempest. This promenade production is entrenched in the very history of St.Paul’s, which was architected by Inigo Jones who was also the prime masque-designer of his- and the last of Shakespeare’s- days.
Promenade productions, which require the audience to follow the action to various different locations, can be toilsome. In this rare case, the movement has the opposite effect, for The Tempest’s scenes vary in their location on Prospero’s island, and the blooms in the twilight add their own texture to the piece as one walks past. The design elements are pitch perfect, from Ariel’s gossamer-esque trousers and Miranda’s piratey garb (Anna Sances) to the way the set design (Mike Leopold) interacts with the trees. In a departure from more modern staging practice, the Iris Theatre staging sticks to the traditional (largely embracing Jones’s masque legacy)- but when contemporary elements are incorporated, the effect is quite sublime. When Miranda and Ferdinand’s marriage masque rolls around, the audience is led inside the church. Effervescent projections serve to symbolize the influence of the goddesses seen at present, and the effect with the lighting design (Benjamin Polya) is otherworldly- as much of the Tempest should feel.
Standout performances include Paul Brendan and Reginald Edwards as clowns Trinculo and Stephano respectively, whose drunken merriment provides the most exciting scene of the show. Prince Plockey’s sly Antonio is as apt as his Caliban in his blind and drunken devotion to the fools. His presence makes for an intense ‘monster’ but it isn’t quite matched by Jamie Newall’s Prospero, who really gets going in the latter half of the play upon meeting his traitors. Linford Johnson is immaculate as Ferdinand, maintaining our interest in the romantic hero through his use of the language, and Joanne Thomson hits a comedic stride in her doubling of Miranda and Gonzalo. Charlotte Christensen is put to good use as Ariel, she is a flutist and beautiful singer whose musicianship adds to the ethereal ambiance, especially in transitions.
Detractors might say that this production of the Tempest is steeped in tradition, from the outdoor setting to the use of historical masque. They are correct, but this fact shouldn’t be detractive. The Tempest lends itself to 21st century effects, magic permeates every scene; but when done right, the play as written can be more than enough to bring out the enchantment. There are pacing issues and the subplot has managed to take precedence at this mounting at St.Paul’s- but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and many parts are indeed brilliant. Iris Theatre invites you to ponder Shakespeare’s final solo project, and to stop and smell the flowers as you go along.
Prospero: Jamie Newall
Ariel: Charlotte Christensen
Ferdinand / Boatswain: Linford Johnson
Joanne Thomson: Miranda / Gonzalo
Caliban / Antonio: Prince Plockey
Trinculo / Alonso: Paul Brendan
Stephano / Sebastian: Reginald Edwards
Director: Daniel Winder
Associate Director & Magic Consultant: Andrew Room
Movement Director: Francesca Bridge-Cicic
Set Designer: Mike Leopold
Costume Designer: Anna Sances
Lighting Designer: Benjamin Polya
Sound Designer: Filipe Gomes
Composer & Music Director: Candida Caldicot
Production Manager: Jake Evans