Nice Idea - Shame About The Staging

The Tempest: William Shakespeare, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge The entirely admirable Seckford Theatre in the grounds of Woodbridge School was packed, mainly with young people, enjoying The Tempest.

The Tempest: William Shakespeare, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge

The entirely admirable Seckford Theatre in the grounds of Woodbridge School was packed, mainly with young people, enjoying The Tempest. Splendid. Love & Madness, the repertory touring company was there for a week doing two plays with the same small group of actors.

Jack Shepherd, best known as Wycliffe on television, has a fine reputation as a Shakespearean director. His task here, directing The Tempest, cut down for nine actors and with two characters changed into women certainly offers challenges.

The staging is simple. A platform ladder in front of grass mounds and drapes. It's a wonderful play and the final scenes here are very moving. Prospero, softening, completes his reconcilation and forgiveness, releases Ariel and, as he weakens, prepares for the grave.


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I am puzzled, therefore, why the production doesn't set out on its way more promisingly. The early stages, frankly, tended to be too full of shouting and shrieking with words so gabbled they were quite so difficult to pick up. I was glad I knew them. Surprising, too, that the lengthy scene in which Prospero tells Miranda how they got to the island is done statically, in one position on the floor. Too much in this production is done on the floor.

Matthew Sim's Prospero gains stature as the play goes on. The early vehemence of his rage is a little difficult to fathom. Prospero's had 12 years on the island to come to terms with the wrong done him, years with his magic books plotting his revenge and comeback. His almost uncontrollable anger is belittling.

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Perhaps it is because revenge is so near his grasp that he's become so sharp. There's a guilty savagery about him, too, in his dealings with Ariel and Caliban that suggests he knows his island plight is of his own making. Rulers who take their eye off the ball deserve what they get. The peril into which Miranda was placed was his own fault and there lies his guilt.

Sim's performance is best in the second half when he circles the characters menacingly, controlling things as it all begins to fall into place. He begins to rise above everything, and looking inwards, spells out all our futures.

Nicholas Kempsey's Ariel is electric; Luciano Doddero and Sarah Straker make a charming pair of young lovers, Ben Gaule a genial Gonzalo, and Lucy Conway a funny Glaswegian drunkard feeding the four-legged monster booze. Sadly, Caliban (Neil Sheppeck) is made so much a monster his words are difficult to hear. A daft idea.

A production of two halves; the second much the better.

Ivan Howlett

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