by William, Shakespeare.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Tour Information www.tlcm.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval.
Review: Alan Geary 18 July at Newstead Abbey.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men might just be the best open-air touring company around.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men are back, again under director Andrew Normington, this time with The Tempest. They’re as good as ever, which is to say outstanding. They might just be the best open-air touring company around.
They always present their Shakespeare inside an overall authentic period context – in this instance Jacobean; this is late Shakespeare – and in authentic costumes. Crucially, it’s an all-male company. But any problem arising as a result is overcome by first-class acting: there’s never a whiff of bargain basement campery or comic drag to be had.
This ciompany deliver their stuff straight, with no bolt-on directorial extras or textual liberties. You’re always treated like an adult; you’re never told what conclusions you should be drawing from the play.
Here they field seven actors – more than some open-air companies – which means that doubling-up doesn’t have to become a built-in, laughter generating virtue.
There are laughs of course. The low-life scenes with Trinculo (Paul Hassall), a Geordie-sounding Stephano (William Reay) and Caliban (Kristian Philips, who, bald with black eyebrows, looks and sounds superb) are neatly done.
Songs are again a feature of this production. At the start it’s sea-shanties, which is fair enough considering that the action opens with that shipwreck. Later there’s some outstanding high-tenor singing from Craig Gordon, who’s a wonderful Ariel; there’s more than a spot of the dance as well in Gordon’s performance.
Matt Bannister is arguably a bit youthful for Prospero – it’s a young cast – but it matters little: he delivers the sublime lines with total authority and conviction, and not a little humour.
In fact, as with every Lord Chamberlain’s Men production, it’s uncanny, given the obvious acoustic problem, how beautifully everyone handles the text. There’s none of that declaiming to the elements and/or audience.
This is rewarding theatre from a consistently strong company.
Miranda/Antonio: William Vasey.
Stephano/Gonzalo: William Reay.
Caliban: Kristian Philips.
Prospero: Matt Bannister.
Alonso/Trinculo: Paul Hassall.
Ariel: Craig Gordon.
Ferdinand/Sebastian: Shaun McKee.
Director: Andrew Normington.
Musical Director: Jonathan Yesten.
Choreographer: Darren Royston.
Vocal Coach: Gary Owston.
Costume Design: Polly Laurence.