Friday 3 July 2015

The Tempest @ The Hope Theatre

The Tempest @ The Hope Theatre

Theatre company Thick as Thieves sure like a challenge. For their latest production, they're performing Shakespeare's grand The Tempest in the small confines of the Hope Theatre. Straight through. In an hour and a half. And with only four actors.

For the most part it works. The Tempest may be one of Shakespeare's shorter plays, but this is a particularly swift performance that does feel like it skims over some details. And although the actors work incredibly hard, lines are occasionally rushed and lack diction, whilst there are some clunky transitions between each of their three characters (particularly in the final scene).

It's clear, too, that they have a lot more fun in certain scenes. Thomas Judd (Ferdinand) and Nicky Diss (Miranda) find a surprising amount of comedy in their scenes as the young lovers, performing throughout with tongue firmly in cheek. Indeed it's comedy that this cast excel at, best represented in the subplot between drunkards Stephano (Diss) and Trinculo (Marcus Houden), and the deformed Caliban (Judd). Diss, in particular, has exceptional comic timing and plays well off Houden, whilst there are plenty of knowing nods and audience interaction that warmly draw us in.

By comparison, the scenes with the shipwrecked Neapolitans drag. Perhaps these characters are simply less interesting, less memorable, and less integral to the plot, but the characterisation is less colourful here, as if the cast have run out of steam.

Yet doubling as director, Diss relishes in the magical moments of the play, led by Ariel Harrison as a sprightly Ariel. Leaves decorate the theatrical space, offering an earthly, tropical feel (perhaps more from the summer heat), and the use of music from composer David Knight, some contrasting lighting, and a particularly fantastical moment using a mask are all well implemented.

This Tempest, then, may be a little uneven, but it's creatively presented and a lot of fun.


Watch: The Tempest runs at the Hope Theatre until 18th July.