The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, was directed by Jan Rae with an original music by Paul Grimwood and was performed at The Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College, from 12th to 15th July 2017.
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Cast and Crew
PROSPERO, former Duke of Milan - James Brown
MIRANDA, Daughter to Prospero - Melisa Ramadan
CALIBAN, an inhabitant of the island - Michael Marsden
ARIEL, inhabitant of the island - an airy Spirit - Helen Poulson
Island Spirits - Philippa Watts, Gill Daly, Emily Lamm, Isobel Brown
ALONSA, Queen of Naples - Sharren Taylor
SEBASTIAN, her younger brother - Dave Gresham
ANTONIO Prospero’s brother, the usurping Duke of Milan - Hugh Blake-James
FERDINAND, son to the King of Naples - Matt Plant
GONZALO, an honest counselor - John Hedley
ADRIANA, lady in waiting to the Queen - Judy Douglas
FRANSCESCA, lady in waiting to the Queen - Anne-Lise Vassoile
TRINCULO, servant of the court of Naples - Chloe Karpinskyj
STEPHANO, servant of the court of Naples - Katrina Rublowski
MASTER OF THE SHIP - Mike Stirling
Director - Jan Rae
Musical Director - Paul Grimwood
Production Manager – Anita Etheridge
Stage Manager - Elizabeth Holden & Tracy Brook
Set Design - Michael Marsden
Lighting - Andrew Cunningham
Sound - tbc
Wardrobe - Judy Douglas, Rebecca Dallaway & Sue Grindlay
Hair & make-up - Denise Biffen
Box Office - Lesley Hedley
Front of House - tbc
Poster Design - Michael Marsden
Publicity - Sharren Taylor & Mike Stirling
Review by Ian B Jones
The last outdoor Shakespeare the Players produced was The Merry Wives of Windsor. By coincidence, the last indoor Shakespeare the Players produced was also The Merry Wives of Windsor, twenty-three years ago. So, was the return of the Bard to the non-weather-dependent stage a triumphant homecoming? Well, the acid test lies in the overheard comments of the punters as they mingled front-of-house both at the interval and as they left: W. Shakespeare can sleep sound. Jan Rae, her cast, her crew and the invaluable “others” delivered yet another Dulwich Players’ success.
Because they were so very impressive, I want to start this review by crediting costume, hair and make-up, and set. Judy Douglas and team produced intelligent and
clever costumes of a seriously professional standard, the ever-wonderful, creative and imaginative Denise Biffen had all the cast looking exactly as they should. Michael’s set was, like his poster, strong, classy and beautifully presented.
Well-received though the show was, this was despite its start. The play opened with ‘the tempest”, the storm conjured up by Prospero’s magic and represented by several minutes of loud music, random flashing lights and almost totally inaudible dialogue. This was frustrating for the audience as this scene should have served to introduce the characters on board and set the scene for Prospero’s revenge. The storm scene was soon forgotten, however, when Prospero and Miranda took to the stage. James Brown’s Prospero was a piece of spot-on characterization, very well bred and very, very well read. With clear diction and a strong voice throughout, James made the part his own, commanding the stage with as much aplomb as his character commanded ‘his’ island. Miranda, played by one of the four new members in the cast, Melisa Ramadan, was a joy to watch. Melisa moved beautifully, had a voice as clear as a bell and pulled off the trick of convincing us she was a precocious, naive and vulnerable fifteen-year-old. Prospero does not engage in much ‘hands on’ magic himself, rather trusting such trickery to his bonded servant, the spirit Ariel. Ariel was played with wonderfully engaging, energetic and slightly puckishly enthusiasm by Helen Poulson. Visually and theatrically striking as her appearance as the harpy was, in this instance volume was at the expense of clarity, as was the case with other members of the cast at times.
The island’s only mortal native inhabitant is the monstrosity Caliban; Michael Marsden’s physical manifestation of Caliban was a tour de force. Caliban’s scenes with Prospero and Miranda were emotional and moving. But the real treat for the audience was when he joined forces with the hapless Trinculo and Stephana, a pair of very much below-the-stairs Neapolitan servants, brought to brilliant comic life by Chloe Karpinskyj and Katrina Rublowsky. Ariel is, of course, not the only ethereal being to be found on the island; we were mesmerized and teased by the ‘island spirits’, Isabel Brown, Gill Daly, Emily Lamm and Philippa Watts. There was something genuinely magical about this amazingly graceful, fleet-of-foot, playful quartet of spirits, who moved like angels and sang like linnets. Matthew Plant played Ferdinand with a lovely light but engaging touch and he and Miranda made a very credible pair of young lovers. Shakespeare wrote a King of Naples, Jan cast a Queen of Naples – the change of sex made no difference whatsoever; Sharren Taylor gave a still and thoughtful performance as the monarch partly responsible for Prospero’s enforced residency on the island. Hugh Blake-James and Dave Gresham, Antonio and Sebastian, what a pair of ocean-going copper-bottomed rotters. Prospero might have decided to forgive them but Friday night’s crowd didn’t! The amiable and decent Gonzalo was played by John Hedley, ‘a friend to Prospero’, and a good friend indeed. Almost at the end of the play, the master of the ship reappeared, and it has to be said that Mike Sterling looked every inch, nay every nautical mile, an old sea dog. Just as a building needs mortar to hold the impressive stones in place, so a play needs supporting roles to give it strength and presence. Anne-Lise Vassoille and Judy Douglas were perfectly understated members of the ensemble and helped make the whole thing a grounded and well-rounded production.
Light and sound are roles that tend to be dismissed as of secondary importance. Being one of the poor souls who often does ‘light and/or sound,’ I know what a responsibility it is. Ray Overington was Mr. Sound and he did a bang-on job. Lights were in the hands of new-to-the-job Andrew Cunningham. A few more lamps here and there might have made a small difference, but good job Andrew.
I have to put my hand up and admit I’m not a fan of music in theatre; opera I get but musicals… I’d put them all before a wall and shoot them, and as for music in dramatic theatre (usually) never. Mr. Paul Grimwood (please read this and then delete), your incidental – by no means a pejorative term – music aided and complemented the show no end.
Prospero’s book of learnt magic is as nothing compared to Jan Rae’s alchemy in getting the Bard’s words off the page and into a couple of hours’ theatrical entertainment. If I have one small criticism, could Prospero’s longer speeches not have been cut a wee bit more? Jan’s use of available space was fantastic, the whole of the stripped-back stage and the balconies were utilized so creatively and to such good effect. Very well done to Jan, to cast and to crew.
As, hopefully, with all Players’ productions, the cast and crew get the audience’s well-deserved congratulations and applause. I’d like to finish with one more “well done” to the chaps (non-gender-specific) running box office and front of house.