The Tempest in the Firth of Forth

Tue 6th – Thu 15th August 2013

reviews

Flo Layer

at 09:22 on 10th Aug 2013

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‘The Tempest’ - the Shakespearean play where magic, nature and man broil up in an inestimable whirlwind of romance and drama - is whisked away by Hands in the Air productions to the undeniably beautiful shore of the Firth of Forth in Hopetoun House grounds. The St Andrews student company gave a polite performance, but suffered, however, under the wild demands of their spectacular set. While I certainly left feeling a little windswept and chillier than when I first stepped off the cosy warmth of the coach, I was in no way left reeling by ‘The Tempest’ itself.

The unusual mimed prologue which unfolded, not so magically, at the bus stop, was indeed just the start of a long, drawn-out process of bemusedly following the performers as they made their way down, along (and back) the length of the shoreline. Although initially charming and immersive, the soft chill of the wind, crashing of the waves, and the rustle of shingle underfoot soon became irritating and hindered our experience of the play: actors’ lines were frequently lost to the wind and the noisy fidgeting of achey limbs in a tiring audience. Thank goodness for the overly comprehensive plot summary that comprises most of the snazzy programme, otherwise those unacquainted with ‘The Tempest’ might have left feeling truly lost. The score was, however, a beautifully composed feature of the production (composed and directed by Siannie Moodie). The lovely folk mix of clàrsach, bodhrán, fiddle, guitar, and more, smoothed-over the otherwise awkwardly slow transfers between acts.

Sunny Moodie gave a perfectly respectable portrayal of Prospero and Siannie Moodie also faultlessly lived up to the naïve dimension of daughter Miranda, but there was always just that extra sparkle missing. Prospero (Moodie) lacked that dark, dominating edge that so brings his character alive, while Caliban (Lewis Harding), despite his well styled rough costume (designed by Tasmin Swanson) and unique surprise entrance to the action, fell short of the sinister brilliance of such a tortured, agonised creature. I can only say that the acting, on the whole, was decidedly accomplished but at the same time very ordinary. It was a performance of a tempest on a flat, calm sea, with no roaring waves of memorable dramatic conflict to be seen.

To spend a whole afternoon down on the Firth of Forth is by no means time wasted - the scenery is stunning and it provides a welcome break from the bustle of festival-packed Edinburgh - but if you’re looking for stunning Shakespearean drama, then I’d stick to the city centre.

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Patty McCabe

at 09:50 on 10th Aug 2013

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When people say that plays transport you, this one literally did – with the help of a 30 minute coach! Staged in the grounds of Hopetoun Hall, the beaches of the Firth of the Forth became the shores of Prospero’s Island in The Mermaids Theatre Society’s production of ‘The Tempest’. Amidst the salty smells and craggy rocks with the increasingly encroaching tide, I found myself watching a performance of Shakespeare that was traditional in its characterisation and costume but experimental in its choice of setting.

Whilst the Firth of the Forth was undeniably full of craggy beauty, Prospero’s Island was situated in the Mediterranean – there is a huge difference between these two locations and it is one that involves both the wind and the cold. The wind became increasingly blustery throughout the performance, making it difficult to hear the dialogue, especially towards the end. This was an immense shame as the characters - Miranda and Ariel in particular - as well as the beautiful music that accompanied the performance found themselves engaged in a battle with the wind. The audience travelled up and down the beach, following characters as they explored Prospero’s strange shore. This appeared a wonderful idea at first, but by the end the audience was visibly tired and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this rather soured one’s opinion of a performance that was high quality, if unoriginal.

By far the strongest performance came from Sunny Moodie as the enigmatic Prospero. Commanding and charismatic, Moodie’s Prospero was natural and convincing; dominating the production as the central force that drives the narrative. Siannie Moodie as Miranda successfully captured the girlish infatuation her character feels for Ferdinand (Jyuddah Jaymes). Although a credible and charming performance, her portrayal of the passive heroine lacked a little depth.

Lewis Harding’s Caliban was adequate, but he failed to convey any nuances in character. The drunken trio of Trinculo (Jamie Jones), Stephano (Peter Swallow) and Caliban was a little disappointing. With the exception of Jones, the humour felt forced and the bawdy and lewd raucousness that one associates with these characters was missing.

If you put people on coach it has to be worth it and I’m not sure that it was. The choice of setting was interesting and, if the wind had not been so loud, I’m sure it would have been much more successful. I believe, however, that the beauty of a Shakespeare play lies in the characterisation and although ‘The Tempest’ was a strong effort, this production failed to capture the complexity that every Shakespeare character possesses.

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