Thursday, July 28, 2011


Blitzed Theatre Company at Brentwood Theatre

Big Brother eyes watching from a video screen, mask, mime and ambient music for Prospero's island – Neil Gray's Tempest teemed with ideas.
Making some key characters women was only partly successful – the stranded nobles in their wedding finery strained credibility, and it was just silly to address each other as “Miss” – but I think Shakespeare would have appreciated the mannish Antonia and Sebastienne [Laura Hughes and Helen Castle]. It's only quite recently that we've felt the need to revere the Bard's text – 200 years ago the cuts and changes we heard at Brentwood would have seemed trivial. Though it seemed perverse to butcher two of the best speeches whilst preserving pages of dull dialogue. And “stranger bedfellows” and “the island is full of noises” just seemed careless.
Among the inspired moments were the boat breaking, and the feast vanishing, before our eyes, the black nymphs, the death of the wonderful Sycorax puppet. I admired the stripped-back staging, and the “thousand twangling instruments” played by the actors. However, even if you are motionless and silent in the wings, your body language will still speak volumes.
Darren Matthews was a gentle, beguiling Prospero; his faithful Ariel was impressively played by Emma Feeney, physically and vocally comfortable in this crucial role. Caliban was a suitably brutish Nicola Stacey. Not everyone managed the verse as successfully as Matthews and Feeney, but I did enjoy the comic duo of Will Fox's Trinculo [with glove puppet] and Matthew Jones's Stephano, who for some reason was allowed a period costume.
The pacey two-hour production was rounded off with a lively jig, worthy of the great Globe itself …

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