31 July 2010
"William Shakespeare's The Tempest performed by the Oxford
Shakespeare Company in Wadham College Gardens, with music
by Nick Lloyd Webber."
By: Julia Gasper -
NOW ON: 9 June - 30 August 2010
Oxford Tickets: 01865 305 305
This production of Shakespeare’s last major play is fast, bold,
full of action and only slightly marred by eccentricities that
will not stop the majority of people from enjoying it. It uses
experimental music and sound to meet to create the strange,
magical atmosphere demanded by the play, combining this with a
certain amount of light-hearted fun. Both the story and the
comedy have survived the somewhat drastic cuts of director Mick
Gordon, although it must be admitted that the masque of the
three goddesses has been ditched in favour of a quick song, and
Prospero’s stern speech to Ferdinand, his prospective
son-in-law, about the perils of pre-marital sex, has been
So have his frequent questions about the exact time which recur
in the full-length play. And Ferdinand’s game of chess with
Miranda has been replaced with a fencing match, perhaps to keep
up the impetus and the pace. A chess-game possibly seemed too
As Prospero, Michael Hadley is vigorous, authoritative and
regal. If anything, he seems a bit too kindly. We cannot really
imagine him punishing his wicked brother or the other
evil-doers, so that the moment when he decides to spare them is
not as dramatic as it could be otherwise.
Sophie Franklin is a warm and impulsive Miranda, radiant in her
rainbow wedding-garb. Matthew Fraser Holland is a suitably
weird-looking Ariel, with a wan face like a Picasso Pierrot.
Richard Pryal has the very difficult task of doubling the role
Caliban (whom he acts with a Polish accent) with that of the
young Prince Ferdinand.
This doubling which is quite usual and very perceptive,
involves lightening changes of costume and of demeanour.
However, it is a piece of directorial mischief to make Caliban
address the words “I loved you,” to Miranda rather than to
Prospero. The music, by Nick Lloyd Webber, consists mainly of
brief songs and snatches of airs, nothing very substantial, and
the songs have been shifted out of their original positions in
The comedy roles of Stephano and Trinculo are very amusingly
played by Christopher Jordan and Rodney Matthew who also act
Sebastian and Antonio. This brings out the underlying themes of
ambition and usurpation as both pairs are, in their different
ways, attempting to seize control of the island.
The setting in Wadham College gardens is eminently
satisfactory, an enclosed, sheltered space where you can both
see and hear everything. Personally I thought that for a
matinee, the lighted torches all around the stage area were
unnecessary and made it rather hot. Maybe they are more
effective in the evening. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile
production and definitely recommended for all age-groups.
The Tempest is running until Thursday 19th August 2010.