'The Tempest' All-women cast - a must see for all genders!

OutSavvy rating: ★★★★★

On Southbank, tucked around the corner from the famous Globe Theatre is a ‘hole in the wall’ entrance to performance magic. The Rose Playhouse is a small makeshift theatre underneath a nondescript building. What makes this place so special is that it sits above an open basement with unearthed remains of the original Shakespearian era Rose Theatre, 1587.

 

This is the perfect atmospheric place to be charmed by the inspirational women-only, Sea-Change Theatre Company and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, one of his last and certainly, strangest plays.


 

Sue Frumin’s vision for her theatre company is to put on Shakespeare’s plays from a woman’s perspective. This is deftly realised by director and co-devisor, Ray Malone. Too often it's all men and boys, so why not the shift? We get to see performances and interpretations that bring fresh insight to the Bard’s work. The result has an ethereal quality. This is wonderfully exemplified by Marianne Hyatt, majestic as Prospero. She delivers the poetry of the play in a commanding, subtle, nuanced voice. Prospero summons up the tempest to blow past enemies ashore to the island on which she and her daughter have been stranded for 12 years, for a day of reckoning. Ariel, Lucianne Regan, whisp-like, floating around the stage weaving the magic of her mistresses bidding, offers a whimsical, other worldly performance.

 

Sue’s cast of the shipwrecked court of Naples and Milan offer genuinly believable male impersonations. We are used to seeing men take on the women of Shakespeare – so what an enlightening rare opportunity to see Will’s men taken on by women. Resplendent in well clipped beards and uniforms of the 17th Century, Alonso the sorrowful king, Gerry Bell, and the sympathetic and honourable Gonzalo, Judy Frumin, both offer plausible, empathetic performances.

 


The true villains of the piece are the scheming Antonio who wronged Prospero, his brother in the first place and the wannabee new King of Naples, Sebastian the youngest son. Camilla Harding as Antonio, delivers a deliciously ‘nasty’ performance, trying to put up the equally ambitious Sebastian, Lottie Vallis, who's role is similarly well observed, to regicide. It is these performances of woman doing non-pantomime/stereotypes as men, that are particularly successful.

 

Then there is the comic sub-plot – the drunken, rollicking adventures of Tricolo, Jerry Bell again - transformed, and a highly enjoyable, almost dangerous, performance by Vix Dillon as the plotting Stephano. Vix seems to channel a skinhead from This is England: shaved head, Doc Martens and Cross of St George sown onto her vest on her back. The third person in the drunken plot against Prospero is the ‘Monster’ Caliban - servant (badly treated slave, really) to Prospero. Having seen a number of Tempests before, I particularly liked the way Rosie Jones developed Caliban, not with deformities and pustules over the body and not as a victim, but as someone desperate to be loved and to attach oneself to someone to serve.

  

The love interest is Miranda, daughter of Prospero and Ferdinand, the shipwrecked son and heir to the king; possibly one of the silliest and fastest falling in love stories in any of Shakespeare’s plays. Miranda, beguilingly characterised by Lakshimi Khabrani has only ever known Prospero and Caliban. So, we assume she is pure(!). She stumbles across Ferdinand, nobly played by Kimberley Jarvis. It has to be said the latter, freely admits that he has ‘been around a bit’ so to speak. It seems the director and the two actors have decided to cut to the chase and so we quickly see the sexual chemistry kick in, with believable and satisfying pay-off (Prospero gives permission – after trials to test their ardour). Watching this, I did wonder whether Miranda really was so innocent after all – the way she taunts Caliban provocatively, and is the one really doing the wooing of Ferdinand. Prospero was able to bring a library of books to the island, to help with magic studies, so perhaps Miranda found out a thing or two as well.

 

Sue Firmin should be proud of what she has brought to us with her concise adaptation of The Tempest. She also provides a fun comic turn as 17th Century strumpet, Myrtle, selling oranges and eels (and other things!) to the audience to set the scene, taking us back in time, before the play begins.

 

I really hope that Sue can bring her director and cast together again, to explore more of Shakespeare’s world. In the meantime, I urge you to go and see this production - it deserves as wide an audience as possible.



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Get your tickets for THE TEMPEST By William Shakespeare

THE TEMPEST  By William Shakespeare
The Rose Playhouse , London
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