If you’re going to resurrect a Shakespeare play at a time when we’re entreated to stay home, it’s tricky to think of one more apt than The Tempest. A young woman, confined to an island, with only her dad and part-man, part-monster Caliban for company? It’s no wonder that, when a group of passing travellers are washed up with the remains of their ship, Miranda’s eyes are as round as portholes.
Creation Theatre first staged this production in Oxford last summer, yet super-smart director, Zoe Seaton, has dusted off her cast, conjured up a virtual set, and has transported Caliban’s island to Zoom – every night until Saturday 25 April.
We kick off with a Q&A onboard a ship bound for the aforementioned island, neatly dispensing with the lengthy scene between the well-demanding wench and her dad that conveys the back story. Ariel uses their new online audience to conjure up the shipwreck, short-cutting an opening scene that has always proved difficult to stage. In doing so, we’re catapulted straight to Miranda spying “a thing divine”: F3DRY_B4BY, thanks to the wonder of name-tagging available on Zoom.
There are many aspects of Shakespeare’s play that stay the same: Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love; Ariel seeks their reward; Sebastienne, the scheming sibling and louche sidekick, stumbles around making mischief; and the drunken Trinculo conspires with long-suffering Caliban to seek their own sort of justice.
There are some liberties taken, as characters are cut or transformed (keep an eye out for Gonzalo), yet the 70-minute-long adaptation still preserves all the scenes you’d expect from a Tempest offering.
It must be an odd gig for an actor, posturing and pranking in front of a camera with full knowledge that a live audience is out there but scant chance to sense their mood. Nevertheless, this lot do brilliantly at keeping the magic of Shakespeare’s final existing play alive. Simon Spencer-Hyde’s Prospero is suitably sonorous and laden with world-weary gravitas. Though Ryan Duncan‘s Ferdinand is more a daft lad than swoonsome hero, Miranda (Annabelle Terry) is clearly just so grateful to see someone her own age that she doesn’t care. It was extra delightful to see Itxaso Moreno (last seen at the Traverse in a feisty Secret Garden) as Ariel. Moreno’s unplaceable accent and fierce verging-on-ferocious spirit is perfectly channeled in Prospero’s grudgingly subservient sprite. Ariel’s delight – and simultaneous, borderline despair – at being finally set free is eerily prescient.
If you’ve been Zoom-ing since we were sent home at the end of March, you’ll be quite comfortable with the format. It’s brilliant to see a platform characterised by practicality being creatively hijacked. Full advantage is taken of the virtual backgrounds, particularly by the ebulliently drunken Trinculo (Keith Singleton). In fact, the novelty green screen tool is used almost all the way through – cast aside only, with devastating effect, for Prospero’s final “we are such stuff as dreams are made on”.
The show is strewn with invitations for audience participation, which are then shared (with consent) with the rest of the viewers in a gloriously reassuring reminder of the living, breathing, snickering, shuffling pack that is an audience. Just beware if you were planning on attending in pyjamas…
In case the reminder that much of humankind is lolling about on our own island isn’t enough, there’s another beautiful moment partway through when Alonso (for reasons that will become clear) entreats the audience to show off their pets. “There’s so much love in the room”, he observes over several long-suffering animals. “With all this love, I think we’re going to be alright.” Who knew a shipwreck could end with such a happy ending.
Buy tickets here.