Despite the cancellation of their first performance due to inclement weather, the CAST 2018 production of The Tempest goes a long way in revitalising a text so frequently performed and studied. The show is slick and impressive, weaving physical theatre into the Shakespearean verse and with a cast who are clearly all proficient actors.
The play opens in the midst of the Tempest itself, with a carefully choreographed and effective movement sequence which has the actors throwing themselves across stage and performing a variety of lifts; Jonathan Ben-Shaul’s influence as Movement Director is felt profoundly all the way through this production, combining physical sequences with music and song. Although such physical theatre is mostly employed cleverly and with success, as the play goes on, particularly in the final few acts, it sometimes feels gratuitous and overdone, losing the initial impact that the first storm sequence carried. The same can be said for the frequency of the music included, which is sometimes quite jarring and overwhelming in such an otherwise simplistic production.
Perhaps as is to be expected, the performances with most vigour came from some of the islanders; Conor Dumbrell is outstanding as Caliban, whilst Milo Callaghan and Shimali De Silva both perform admirably as Ariel and Miranda respectively. Avigail Tlalim has the mammoth task of taking on Prospero and, for the most part, does well enough; there are moments where the connection between Prospero and Miranda is wonderfully brought out and heightened, which seemed to me to be aided by the decision to make Prospero a female character, but she loses some momentum as the play goes on, resulting in the final reconciliation and culmination of her designs falling somewhat flat. Toby Waterworth does well to multirole in the absence of an original cast member, and the chemistry between him and Stanley Thomas is playful and light-hearted, capturing the drunken revelry of Trinculo and Stephano.
Aesthetically, this production is a delight to behold. The set is simple and minimal, but beautifully effective, nothing more than a few wooden posts and some linen sheets (although the apparently arbitrary movement of said posts was occasionally confusing and unnecessary); this is balanced perfectly by the bold colours and striking shadows of Rebecca Fry’s lighting design which, combined with an impressive array of soundscapes, seemingly effortlessly captured the ever-changing atmosphere.
Overall, the production is slick and well-performed, though I do not feel it is an interpretation which sheds much new light on the text, it is entertaining and impressive, with several really standout performances.