Friday, March 17, 2006

Plot of Shakespeare play lost in a storm
By Laura-Jane Filotrani
A battering performance: The Tempest

THIS production of The Tempest is a mish mash of musical theatre, mime and straight acting. I would hazard a guess if you did not know the plot of Shakespeare's last play, you would be none the wiser after having seen this version.

Does this matter? Probably not, but it does say something about the lack of cohesion with the performance.

Three actors each on a number of roles. They all show an amazing physical presence and great comic timing.

The players use a mix of Spanish and English throughout sometimes whole scenes using Spanish only.

Each character is grotesquely portrayed with outlandish costumes. Mix this with bongos, shrill singing, chanting, music which ranges from church chorus to French folk to salsa and lots of shouting and you have a good sense of what to expect.

What the production does well is explore the themes of dreams and reality and you do get a sense of the strangeness and danger of fantasy. It also captures the play's prevalent colonialism, through costume and contemporary references.

The actors are funny their timing excellent and they are full of energy (there was a lot of stamping of feet and flinging of bodies across the stage.) What lets it down is firstly the space they are working with. This production is too physical for the Playhouse. The performers are so close you could hold their hands so you feel almost battered by the performance.

Secondly what makes this a strangely disappointing experience is the lack of cohesion.
There are lots of entertaining, well-executed aspects but the random insertion of Tempest speeches among the ranting Spanish and colloquial English makes for a confusing stilted production.

You are left with a series of funny and memorable vignettes but not enough plot clarity for you to care about the characters.

The Tempest, until April 2, Greenwich Playhouse, tickets £11/£8 concs, box office 020 88

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