by William Shakespeare.
Oxford Playhouse Beaumont Street OX1 2LW To 24 October 2015.
Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm; Fri 8om Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 17 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 20 Oct.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 305305.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 October.
Something rich and strange.
Down direct from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with accents ranging round the British isles, this co-production between Oxford Playhouse, Northern Stage and Improbable Theatre is directed by Improbable’s Phelim McDermott.
So, unsurprisingly, it contains a visual richness from the clothing that covers the stage (linen seems as natural there as moss on heaths), forms garb for the masque characters Prospero summons as wedding entertainment and hangs in the air throughout.
Clothing’s an interesting focus. Prospero details how he and Miranda were provided with it by faithful courtier Gonzalo when usurpers cast them adrift 15 years earlier, while the drunken sailors seek shelter under a gabardine and so happen upon Caliban, before they’re misdirected in their hapless attempt at another usurpation by a display of tempting costumes.
There’s contrast too between the filthy waters they fall into and the pristine white court costumes of the enemies Prospero has shipwrecked but preserved from natural harm.
But the dominant stage images seem at odds with a directorial approach that emphasises actors rehearsing alongside recordings of the script (who was reading?). Above McDermott’s programme article mentioning this is a photo where he seems to be rebuking Tyrone Huggins for having a script in his hand.
The practice could inhibit actors at least as much as help them, and results in intriguing but inconsistent ideas. Tyrone Huggins’ Prospero sometimes seems a tyrant, using his magic staff as an instrument of torture to make Miranda sleep or subdue Ariel’s rebellious moments.
Such flashes of rage melt into softer concern but it’s strange Prospero plans to forgive major enemies while growing tetchy over those closest to him.
His manner causes truculence in both Miranda, absolutely a teenager, and Ariel who finds the one thing he wants, freedom, repeatedly delayed by a master who keeps issuing more orders. Jade Ogugua and Eileen Walsh provide spirited opposition within an equally spirited optimism of temperament.
The opening with a mashing-machine produces a nice but unproductive pun. Yet the end, where characters fade away, Prospero returning to the rocks whence the play came, fittingly suggests they are such stuff as dreams are made on.
Stephano: Tony Bell.
Alonso: John Paul Connolly.
Prospero: Tyrone Huggins.
Antonio: Gary Kitching.
Trinculo: Hannah McPake.
Miranda: Jade Ogugua.
Caliban: Peter Peverley.
Ferdinand: Christopher Price.
Ariel: Eileen Walsh.
Director: Phelim McDermott.
Designer: Becs Andrews.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound: Nick Williams.
Composer/Musician: Brendan Murphy.
Associate director: Mark Calvert.