The Tempest

‘The Tempest’ was written by William Shakespeare in 1611, and this comedy/drama was thought to be his last play.

This lively two-and-a-quarter-hour ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ production by Roleystone Theatre was presented in the beautiful Araluen Botanic Park just off Brookton Highway – near the old Roleystone Theatre building. Free parking. You are invited to bring along drinks and nibbles. A small section is available at the performance area entrance.

The four-show season runs on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 4.00 pm until Sunday 20th November.

The stunning venue is a quarter of an acre of spacious lawn and limestone curved terracing, facing onto a lawn and paved performance area with a lake beyond.

Further details:

The Scene:           an exotic and enchanted remote island, with one inhabitant – Sycorax’s son Caliban.

The Set:                The natural setting, with logistics by Daniel Ramsell and Cameron Ramsell.

Props:                   Supplied by Kat Stark. Six large logs, drinking vessels, weapons, and some unusual costumes.

Sound:                  Peter ‘Pear’ Carr managed to have the speaker stands well to the side and despite most of the action taking place in front of them yet amazingly with very little feedback (normally actors should always be behind the speakers, which outside – from a practical point of view – can become very difficult). There was a small angle of about 10 degrees that caused a small amount of distortion, but Pear was quick on the fader and reduced a potential problem to a slight tinniness. Congratulations on the particularly good headset microphone control.

Lighting:              God.

Poster:                  Bright and inviting – Bree Hartley.

Costumes:           Penny Ramsell and Jo Padgett

Stage manager: None (?)

The powerful magician Prospero (Kate O’Sullivan) tells his daughter Miranda (Abby Jennings, captivating) that he, Prospero, should have become the rightful Duke of Milan, not his brother Antonio (Sam Barnett). When Prospero hears that Alonso, King of Naples (Azza Gee) is on the high seas with several Lords he orders his magic sprite, Ariel (Ben Adcock), to create a storm and wreck the ship.

Thanks to the Master of the King’s ship (Caity Webb) and the Boatswain (Andre Victor) most of the sailors and lords are washed up on a beach, unaware that on the other side of the island is the savage islander, Caliban (Benjamin Small) who is also under Prospero’s spell. Another noble, Alonso’s son, Ferdinand (Joanna Tyler) lands on Caliban’s beach. As Ferdinand is the King of Naple’s son, Prospero compels Ariel to arrange a meeting of Ferdinand and Miranda. They fall in love.

Across the island, King Alonso, and his trusted adviser Gonzalo (Phillip Steele-Young) with his councillors, Adrian (Kim Fletcher) and Francisco (Jack Barker) assume Ferdinand has drowned at sea. Now, hoping to become the sole heir to the throne, Antonio persuades Ferdinand’s aunt Sebastian (Kelly Salathiel, powerful) into killing Alonzo, but Ariel stops the assassination.

Caliban meets Alonso’s jester, Trinculo (Andre Victor) and his butler Stephano (Caity Webb, great fun) and tries to talk them into killing Prospero, but instead, they become very drunk.

What will become of Prospero and Ariel?

Even though I know the play well, I found when one actor plays two characters that the total lack of costume change, is a little difficult to follow. An audience member new to the play could have been lost. For example – and this certainly does not reflect upon the excellent performances – the Master of the ship and Stephano the drunken butler wore exactly the same outfits. Especially when a female plays a male part (no problem with this in the slightest) it is easier for the uninitiated to follow if some clue like a hat, apron, or sword is given to clarify the character, occupation, or sex.

This is a general comment for all outdoor events when actors mingle in the crowds, please be aware of the need to wash the costume regularly and use deodorant if a lot of exertion is involved.

The Tempest needs a strong Prospero, a fun Trinculo, and a lively Ariel. The other actors are still very important, but these key actors set the pace and mood. Director Paul Treasure selected perfectly, Kate as Prospero had authority and carried himself well, Trinculo had great comedic delivery and Ariel covered the whole auditorium fleetly and light-footed. The cast was word-perfect and projected well. In a wide-open space, it is easy to turn sideways, and even a powerful voice can disappear into infinity, but this cast without exception spoke directly to the audience and every word was heard and comprehended.
An outdoor performance can tend to be ‘chewing gum for the mind’ for an audience often as interested in passing around the cheeseboard and glasses of wine. Director Paul has ensured that the cast worked the audience well, approaching the patrons without any resulting embarrassment, making them feel part of the tale, and holding their attention away from the edible distractions.

Outdoor plays can vary, but this was one of the better ones. Strongly directed and had some terrific performances. Most enjoyable.