Sea-Change Theatre at the Rose Playhouse
for Remote Goat
Shakespeare probably saw his Tempest over the river at Blackfriars. He'd be bewildered to find it performed 400 years later on the sparse remains of The Rose, already dark by the time the play was penned.
He'd be intrigued by this beautifully simple staging, directed by Ray Malone and designed by Lu Firth. Ropes, crates, and a distant prospect of the very Romantic storm, which we view, with Miranda, from afar.
Sea-change, a women-only company, seeks to “invert the Elizabethan convention of male-only performances”. Their name is taken from Act I – one of Shakespeare's many coinings – and this was their inaugural production, first seen on Lesvos last year.
The cross-gendering works well, for the most part. Many of the male characters, names unchanged, become women. Others remain resolutely masculine – the clowns, the Neapolitan nobles, striking in their beards, black doublets and red sashes. No chance of meeting Claribel, but we do get to see Sycorax [Lottie Vallis] – a strong female role – conjured by Ariel in a very effective scene.
American actor Marianne Hyatt makes an imposing Prospero, the poetry beautifully delivered [though it's a shame that Our Revels was both misplaced and misremembered]. Her daughter is played by Lakshmi Khabrani, in an impassioned, and often passionate, reading. Kimberley Jarvis is a compelling Ferdinand; Lucianne Regan an angelic Ariel, in a long white robe which seems to sap some of the fun and the energy from an otherwise delightful interpretation. A strong Caliban from Rosie Jones, giving The Isle is Full of Noises to just one auditor in the front row, and a great Laurel and Hardy double-act from Vix Dillon and Gerry Bell as Stephano and Trinculo, the drunken butler – skin-head and England shirt …
Sue Frumin, who wrote this version, makes several appearances as Myrtle, the mudlark peddling relics from the river. A good idea to root the production in the place, but like the hand-held projector, it didn't really work in practice.
The publicity might lead us to expect a more radical re-working, rather than this magical, captivating 90-minute Tempest, which though it has its own agenda, manages to respect the text, the place and the audience. Let's leave the really radical to the rival house across the way …