OVO’s The Tempest at Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans

10:03 04 July 2014

The Tempest images

The Tempest images

Copyright Michael Maggs Photography

If there is one Shakespeare play I have seen plenty of times over the years, it is The Tempest.

As with all productions some were good, some not so good and some pretty poor.

So I can say with some confidence that the version put on by OVO at the Maltings Arts Theatre was pretty darn good.

To perform Shakespeare’s play about the results of a shipwreck conjured up by Prospero on a stage as small as that at the Maltings was a challenge in itself but director Alison Wright and her team rose to it masterfully.

It meant that George Edkins’ Prospero was on stage throughout but the character was never intrusive despite his presence as the various scenes were played out.

In fact, George’s performance as events swirled around his ‘cell’ brought home to me what a pivotal character Prospero is even if the lines most people remember from the play come from other characters’ lips. By keeping Prospero on stage, there is no sense of his ever losing control over events he had manipulated.

OVO’s Tempest was played out in traditional Elizabethan dress which was refreshing in itself with only Ariel, an ethereal performance by Stephanie Jones, and Ian Jordan’s convincing Caliban dressed differently as their roles dictated.

Lucy Crick’s Miranda and Rob Ferguson’s Ferdinand made an attractive couple – she all wide-eyed wonder on first seeing the shipwrecked princeling and he introducing a note of humour into his role which worked well.

And while often critical of Shakespeare’s comic scenes, particularly in productions set in a different period from when they were written, I have to say that Ed White’s drunken Stephano and Sassy Clyde’s Trinculo were excellent – making the characters fun for a modern audience as well.

But George Edkins, an often underrated actor, deserves the biggest bow because his Prospero was totally in charge of events yet at the same time displaying the cruelty to Ariel and Caliban that has been at the heart of many A-level essays.

MADELEINE BURTON

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