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Review: The Tempest, Red Rose Chain, Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, to August 28

PUBLISHED: 07:37 01 August 2016 | UPDATED: 07:37 01 August 2016

Kirsty Thorpe, Ed Day, Lawrence Russell, Jack Parker and Rachael McCormick in Red Rose Chain's The Tempest. Photo: Bill Jackson

Kirsty Thorpe, Ed Day, Lawrence Russell, Jack Parker and Rachael McCormick in Red Rose Chain's The Tempest. Photo: Bill Jackson

Archant

Behind the sorcery, sprites, monsters and mayhem is a story about a family, albeit a dysfunctional one.

Lawrence Russell and Ed Day in Red Rose Chain's The Tempest. Photo: Bill Jackson Lawrence Russell and Ed Day in Red Rose Chain's The Tempest. Photo: Bill Jackson

The tale about usurped duke Prospero’s quest for revenge seems simple but it’s not, serving as the starting point for several story strands. One of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, there are less characters which is easier on the brain. Writer and director Joanna Carrick employs clever subtle devices so you’re never confused amid all the action.

There’s lots of it. It may be the smallest cast ever used in the woods, but it’s a really dynamic show. The pace never slackens and, despite the toing and froing between the different arcs, it holds your attention. All the kids there were enraptured, quite the feat considering Carrick doesn’t dumb down the content.

The space, a character in itself, was used really well in ways they’ve not done before. I loved the set, comprised of scores of metal barrels that served as everything from a ship to a bed. The execution reminded me of the company’s previous two shows, The Tale of Mr Tod and Richard III. The environment was created from bits and pieces lying around, encouraging you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.

The 20th Century setting, with a very heavy dollop of Italian influence, was a clever fit for the story and music. The latter provides one of the show’s stand-out moments in the second half. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know the bit I mean. Coming out of nowhere it works when it really shouldn’t.

The sound design, enhanced by the occasional call of one of the farm’s resident peacocks; lighting and choreography helped immerse you in the action. So too did the new splash zone. A familiar panto technique, the way it was weaved into the story was a stroke of genius.

Full of ridiculous moments, there was lots of physical comedy. With the odd exception, I’m not a fan of farce but I found myself laughing. I really enjoyed the scenes involving jester Trinculo, butler Stephano - coming across as the love child of Fawlty Tower’s Manuel and Nintendo karting enthusiast Mario - the monstrous Caliban and enslaved sprite Ariel.

It’s not all pratfalls and buckets and water. Prospero’s toying with Caliban, Ariel, the brother who dethroned him and everybody else he’s shipwrecked on the island he now calls home is dramatic. The romance between prince Ferdinand and Prospero’s daughter Miranda is cute; especially juxtaposed against Prospero’s unnecessary meddling.

Purists may not like Carrick’s approach, but Shakespeare wasn’t one for sticking to the rules either.

Wayne Savage

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