The Tempest in Southwick stirs up storm of contradictions

Bob Ryder as Prospero in The Tempest  for Wick Theatre Company
Bob Ryder as Prospero in The Tempest for Wick Theatre Company

The Tempest has many layers and can be seen in many ways, just like Wick Theatre Company’s production of the Bard’s last play.

Much of the performance at the Barn Theatre in Southwick on Thursday night was really very good but there were some elements that made it really rather difficult to feel fully immersed in the experience.

It did not help that several minutes into the performance, two people not only arrived late, they took some time to actually sit down, creating quite a distraction.

That is not Wick’s fault but at the same time, the sound of the storm raging was so loud, not all the voices could be heard, and the smoke effect so thick, it made the whole thing feel very oppressive.

On the flip side, one could say that really did put you in ‘the tempest’ but for me, it was hard to concentrate with all these distractions.

Bob Ryder’s performance as Prospero, a weighty part indeed, especially at the start, was excellent, though sadly a little lost under all the chaos.

In fact none of the performances could be faulted and everyone handled Shakespeare’s text really well.

Even the modern music which director Dan Dryer chose to use worked within the whole.

One of the real highlights of the night was the comedy, mainly courtesy of Guy Steddon as the jester Trinculo and Alex Bond as the drunken butler Stephano. I was disappointed there were not more people laughing as heartily as I was, in fact.

But the stand-out performance had to be Jacqueline Harper as the slave Caliban. She held her hunched-over, monster-like posture throughout each of her scenes – quite some time in some cases – and bounded around the stage with great athleticism. I especially enjoyed the drunken antics of Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban, and the way the movements of someone under the influence were portrayed was spot on.

Emily Hale was domineering and bold as the spirit Ariel, surprising us all at one point with giant wings.

It was nice to see the return of Sophie Lane, who played Miranda as delicately as one would expect.

The main scenery was a one piece rostrum-type affair which spinned and turned to become either a hilltop or cave. It was all very clever.

Maggi Pierce and Cherry Fraser in wardrobe had their work cut out for them, too, creating lavish robes and silken gowns, as well as Caliban’s draping affair.

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