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Pictures: Beth Martyn Smith

The Tempest

Worcester Repertory Company

Huntingdon Hall


The decision to move the autumn Shakespeare production by the Worcester Repertory Company from the Cathedral to Huntingdon Hall was inspired. The venue works brilliantly: it is warmer, more intimate and acoustically excellent.

The Tempest may have been William Shakespeare’s final play – one of his final series of mystery plays which moved beyond the comedies and tragedies of his earlier period.

It combines many elements of previous plays: the romantic young lovers of the comedies, the magical characters and ploys of Midsummer Night’s Dream, the usurpation or power seen in plays like Macbeth and Measure for Measure, the follies and frolics of the rude mechanicals in Midsummer Nights Dream, and similar characters in other plays.

The themes of the play explore power, betrayal, revenge, forgiveness, love and magic. The last of these seem to suggest Shakespeare is exploring the role of art and the playwright in particular, his special ability to weave tales, invent characters and manipulate them and control destinies.

At the end of the play Prospero relinquishes his magical powers, as though Shakespeare is finally laying down his craft, his dramatic inventions and his magical powers as he nears the end of his mortal days.

Ben Humphrey has managed an excellent and charming cast with great skill and this production is excellent. There are very strong performances across the play: the powerful Jonathan Darby (Prospero) controls the stage, Hannah Rose (Miranda) is delightful and charming and convincing in her innocence, Tom Riddell (Ferdinand) plays the straight but enchanted young lover convincingly, with just a mere hint of exaggeration.

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Heidi Gowthorpe (Ariel), who played Feste brilliantly in Twelfth Night last year, has a wonderful range of skills, in dance and singing as well as her acting. Will Williams (Caliban) grows in his performance as the embodiment of that brutish creature, and his partnership with John-Robert Partridge (Trinculo) and Ben Humphrey (the permanently inebriated Stephano) is hilarious. This trio heighten the entertainment hugely without detracting from the other elements in the play.

Finally, Murray Watts plays the elderly and endearing Gonzalo with quiet and sensitive intensity, convincing in his frailty, alongside the three evil plotters, Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian, played by Nick Wilkes, Edward Manning and Rob Leetham respectively – all provide clear and strong performances.

Other elements in this production work very well to support the cast. The set design with its maritime and island themes intertwined is excellent, combining with the well-designed costumes and the clever lighting and sound effects.

The delivery of Shakespeare’s verse by the cast is a real strength of this show and ensures it is a performance that is highly accessible. The purists might regret some of the ‘cuts’ to the original – we do not see the play within the play, the Masque, for instance - but this sharpens the evening. In particular the use of sound and lighting in the opening storm scene, with voices over speaking some of Shakespeare’s lines, is very effective.

This would make a great introduction to Shakespeare for the young or uninitiated, it is also a provocative production for the experienced theatre-goers to enjoy. ‘The Tempest is running to Saturday, 28 September: don’t miss it! It is great entertainment with a serious dimension and a production of great credit to the company.

Timothy Crow


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