With only four actors playing all of the parts, providing musical accompaniment, sound effects, and finding contemporary elements to add to a demanding script, a lot was happening when the Pantaloon Theatre Company bought their open-air adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest to Stowe Fields.
The quartet of Rhianna Compton, Chris Coxon, Angela Eyton and Will Gillham, with direction from Mark Hayward, bought Shakespeare’s tale of a malevolent magician and his control over the lives of people who are shipwrecked on his island to vivid life.
Prospero has been stranded on an island for 12 years, with his daughter Miranda, the monster Caliban and a magical spirit, Ariel.
Prospero was deposed from his position as the Duke of Milan by his brother Antonio. As the play begins, his ship is heading to the island, and a storm – of Prospero’s creating – brings the ship’s crew ashore where they find themselves in several different situations.
The Tempest was one of Shakespeare final plays and blends elements of comedy and tragedy to good effect. It is a play of many themes, from redemption and developing self-awareness, as well as love lost and found, friendship’s formed and the impermanence of everything that we create and hold dear.
The four cast members played all of the roles with aplomb, with Rhianna Compton’s Ariel being a particularly good performance.
The musical score, which blended original music with sea shanties was played by the actors on ukulele, bass, guitar, mandolin, harmonium, and the quartet’s own voices, which blended to create a soundtrack that embraced and enhanced the moods of the play.
The challenges of outdoor performance are many and the players all played along, incorporating the movement of geese into the play and allowing for a lot of audience participation.