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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol

 

Live review:

The TEMPEST @ THE ISLAND

Tasha Nuthall

Brave Mirror’s production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest could be considered daring, considering the student-run theatre company had been founded merely months ago. That, coupled with their bold decision to debut their company with one of the most widely-performed and acclaimed plays in theatrical history, runs the risk of being dramatically over-ambitious. However, the result is a marvellous display of musicality and wonderment.

Directed by Jamie Saul, The Tempest follows banished Duke Prospero and his daughter Miranda as they encounter strange spirits and intruders on their remote island. The simple set – a map of Prospero’s island which is drawn out on the floor in chalk – allows the cast to take full advantage of the space onstage, milling past the audience and throwing themselves across the stage. Instrumental in conveying the atmosphere of the island was the use of sound and lighting, the former being orchestrated by Jack Harding, whose score beautifully accompanies the narrative. Indeed, the distinct musicality that was ubiquitous throughout the play evoked a sense of enchantment, enhanced by Connor Ash’s use of lighting to not only indicate a change in scene, but also the altering moods of the play. However, at times I found the lack of visual effects rather underwhelming in presenting Prospero’s island, with the reliance on sound effects not fully expressing the beauty of the landscape of which the characters speak. 

Rather cleverly, the role of Prospero was split between three actors (Elin Alexander, Madeleine Cross and Saul himself), with each portrayal being considerably different from the other, aiding the changing tones in the play. The first Prospero is played with a tense austerity, whilst the second Prospero is affable and kind, joyous in his daughter’s betrothal to the hopelessly infatuated Ferdinand. The third Prospero is perhaps most intriguing, with his plea for the audience to “let your indulgence set me free” delivering a sombre note to the play. 

I adored the opening scene, in which a stern Prospero narrates the storm that brought him and daughter Miranda (Josie Dixey Watson) to the remote island. Whilst Prospero bids Miranda to pay attention (“dost thou attend me?”), the supporting characters are frozen in time, like museum displays. Whilst this scene is fraught with emotion, the rest of the play is fast-moving, flitting from Prospero’s cell to the depths of the island with little pause. However, this was at the expense of some scenes feeling rushed, particularly the interactions between Duke Alonso and his men. 

The standout of the production was Ariel, played masterfully by Phoebe Averdieck. She dances around the stage, her presence indicated by tense orchestral strings and a pale blue beam. As an audience, we are caught between sympathising with Ariel’s tender vulnerability when begging for freedom and being astonished by her manipulation of the shipwrecked crew. Comic relief was provided in the form of the delightful drunkards Stephano and Trinculo, played by Megan Good and Tallula White respectfully. At times, the two actors diverted attention from Tom Younger’s Caliban, although his delivery of “the isle is full of noises” speech aptly captured the monster’s desperation. 

Saul’s production of The Tempest was remarkably well-rehearsed and well-performed, an impressive feat particularly on its first night. With productions as captivating in its storytelling as this, I’m excited to see what Brave Mirror do next. 

4/5 stars.

Photography by Lion Schellerer, courtesy of Brave Mirror Productions.