Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at the Hope Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at the Hope Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at the Hope Theatre
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05 Jul REVIEW: The Tempest at the Hope Theatre

Summer’s arrived, and contrary to time-tested English tradition, it’s hot. With the availability of air conditioning dividing theatres into “have” and “have nots,” it really can be the difference between a show being enjoyable or not. So it’s safe to say, then, that if a show’s great even at the kind of temperature you could roast a dinner in, it’s got something quite brilliant going on. Coming down on the side of the “have nots” (though not for too much longer!), The Tempest at the Hope Theatre definitely has that something quite brilliant going on. And whilst it’s in very good company when it comes to being climatically challenged, both production and venue stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to how it responds, with innumerate thoughtful and good-humoured touches that solidify it’s position as one of the friendliest and most welcoming venues in London.

This most special of tropical islands is the scene for one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, The Tempest, where Prospero, the ousted Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place with the help of a sprinkling of magic, a mysterious spirit, and the eponymous tempest, which runs aground a ship carrying the King of Naples and his entourage, depositing them unceremoniously along the shoreline.

Already one of only a few Shakespearean comedies that truly continues to translate for modern audiences, Thick as Thieves have turned it up another notch and made a production that’s simply irresistible. Drawing on elements of improvisation – including a hilariously perfect response to a spilt drink from director-producer-actress Nicky Diss, the production layers pertinent costume choices which are a far cry from the traditional moth-eaten Elizabethan garb we’re used to (Trinculo and Stephano are quite something to behold), with the kind of precise comic timing that’s completely inescapable.

But it’s not just the ability to make everyone laugh out loud that’s won this reviewer over; it’s how the team, who seem very much like a team, make audiences feel a part of the show rather than just spectators, a feeling that’s rare in theatre, especially without any kind of forced audience participation. Instead there’s a tangible consciousness of, but not a preoccupation with, the audience, from Shakespeare’s theatrical asides being muttered into people’s ears rather than across the stage, to light-hearted conversational assessments of how the jokes are going down. The result? It comes together to feel as warm in emotion as it does in temperature.

With just four actors playing more than 10 roles, larger ensemble scenes were always going to be a challenge, but with a little imagination, they (just about) pull it off with remarkable clarity. Enjoying particularly strong performances from Thick as Thieves co-founders Nicky Diss and Thomas Judd as Miranda, Antonia, Stephano, Caliban, Ferdinand and Alonso, the result is unpolished and unpretentious, a description that also goes to match the production more widely. In short, it’s a play that does more than just make Shakespeare accessible; it makes Shakespeare hilarious.

For tickets and information:
Venue: Hope Theatre
Dates: 30th June – 18th July 2015

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here