Monday, January 26, 2015



The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe


Easy to forget that for years and years Shakespeare was enjoyed in versions geared to the changing tastes of the public, bastardized, bowdlerized, enhanced by spectacle and musical production numbers.

A taste of the Restoration in the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, where the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brought us Matthew Locke's Tempest. Elizabeth Kenny and her musicians, with stage director Caroline Williams, presented a potted version of the 1674 show put on by Betterton in Dorset Garden, hastily pulled together when the scheduled Psyche hit production troubles. It was based closely on the Tempest done by Davenant and Dryden a few years earlier. So a re-write of a re-write of a re-write.

The emphasis was on the music, but we did have about twenty minutes' worth of text, brilliantly delivered by Dickon Tyrrell - one of the glories of the Golden Pestle – and Molly Logan. Between them they played all the parts [Mustacho the Mate and Miranda's sister Dorinda among the less familiar], with Logan memorably killing herself in a duel.

The singers were Frazer B Scott, Samuel Boden, who played the title role in Ormindo here [it's back later this season] and Katherine Watson, superbly delivering Adieu to the Pleasures and Follies of Love.

That last by James Hart, one of several composers drafted in to supplement Locke's work, amongst them Henry Purcell and Pelham Humfrey.

One of the most spectacular sequences was the Masque of Devils, featuring two excellent boy singer/actors, Harry Cookson and Andrew Sinclair-Knopp.

This hugely enjoyable, revelatory performance is the first in a candle-lit season, including John Williams, Joanna McGregor and Anne Boleyn's Songbook.

For almost 200 years this was the most popular Tempest in town. A bit like only knowing The Taming of the Shrew from seeing Kiss Me Kate. There were some remnants of Shakespeare remaining – some of the verse, and most of the plot, between the opening storm and Prospero's valediction :

Henceforth this Isle to the afflicted be
A place of Refuge as it was to me;
The Promises of blooming Spring live here,
And all the Blessings of the rip'ning year;
On my retreat let Heaven and Nature smile,
And ever flourish the Enchanted Isle.

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