Ginger Hibiscus | Review by Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at the Waterloo East Theatre
Review by Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at London's Waterloo East Theatre
Review by Ginger Hibiscus | The Tempest at the Waterloo East Theatre
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21 Oct REVIEW: The Tempest at the Waterloo East Theatre

Sarah Redmond‘s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, currently playing at the Waterloo East Theatre, provides a masterclass in theatrical storytelling. With brilliant acting across the board, it’s a production that makes Shakespearean comedy actually funny to a modern audience, drawing absurdity out of script and depositing it centre stage- much like the characters thrown from their boat in the eponymous tempest.

Of course, the tempest itself isn’t simply a meteological phenomenon. Summoned by Prospero (Tom Keller), the rightful Duke of Milan, it’s stirred up to lure usurper Antonio (Daniel Everitt-Lock) and King Alonzo (Guy Woolf) to the remote island where he and his daughter Mirander (Rebecca Hazel) reside, so she can restore her claim to the Dukedom.

A man in possession of mystical powers, Prospero has an unwilling yet loyal servant, a spirit named Arial, played in an astonishing performance by Chipo Kureya. Lightly flitting around like a moth about a lightbulb, she has a wonderful agility that makes her as funny to watch as to listen to, appearing and disappearing with ease, and drawing and dismissing attention at will. Outstanding in her characterisation, Kureya evidently has an excellent understanding of the script, translating directly into clear, expressive delivery, with an unexpected treat in her beautiful singing voice.

With equally strong performances from Tom Keller as Prospero and Matthew Harper as Caliban, The Tempest is a play that certainly entertains and informs. Yet this production seems to market itself on taking a Shakespeare classic, and bringing it to 21st century London. To a certain extent, it does do that, just not in the way you’d expect. Sure enough, we have a set that fits the brief with tube signs strewn across the place, and there are some interesting elements of contemporary dance, with modern-looking costume work, and a slightly bizarre lapdancing scene (yes, you read that correctly). But there’s nothing in the play itself that would place it in London. Except of course, that it is playing in a theatre in 21st century London.

The other problem is that the production could use a bit of work on the audience cues; without a curtain and with different lighting being used throughout, sometimes bathing the audience in light and at others exploiting the darkness to great effect, there is a bit of awkwardness when all but the most avid of Shakespeare fans are unsure as to whether or not the interval has started. It’s a shame from the perspective of the actors and actresses, who, having put in brilliant act I performances deserve to leave the stage to resounding applause, rather than a confused silence.

Saying that this is an “updated” Shakespeare classic seems to miss the point. It’s a great production will brilliant storytelling, that’s thoroughly enjoyable and very funny. It’s certainly not perfect, but if you have even a passing interest in Shakespeare, or are seeking an accessible way in, this is definitely worth a visit.

For tickets and information:
Dates: Showing until 26th October 2014
Location: Waterloo East Theatre

Spelling of names in accordance with the program.

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.
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