The Tempest Maintains Fulham Theatre's High Standard

Penny Flood is blown away by gender blind version of Shakespeare classic

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The enormously high standard of productions by the London Theatre Workshop is being maintained in their latest production. It's The Tempest, Shakespeare's muddle of magic realism and politics.

It's a play that has lent itself to parody, first most famously as the movie The Forbidden Planet, followed by the daft rock and roll version Return to the Forbidden Planet. But the version we have here is more or less as Shakespeare wrote it. I say more or less as they've done away with the jester Trinculo and all the fairies but that doesn't detract from the story.

It all happens on an island where Prospero and his daughter have been exiled for 12 years. They were packed off there by Prospero's brother Antonio so he could take over Prospero's position as the Duke of Milan.

Prospero and Miranda aren't alone on the island, there are two others; Caliban the son of a witch and Ariel, a magical spirit. Prospero has enslaved them both, Caliban because he tried to rape Miranda, and Ariel who he released from being stuck up a tree so Ariel owes him.

When Prospero learns that a ship with his brother is nearby, he gets Ariel to conjure up a tempest so that it is wrecked on the island with its cargo of noblemen, courtiers and mariners. This means the two brothers can sort things out face to face. The tempest has done its work and now things really take off.

The Tempest at Fulham's London Theatre Workshop

Joseph Law is smashing as Ariel, a pale and slender spirit whose obedience is tempered with an undertow of contempt for his master, who has promised him freedom as soon as this latest episode is sorted out.

Ruskin Denmark, much better looking than the deformed savage described by Shakespeare, makes a terrific Caliban. He's a tousled haired, angry and menacing young man, with a surprisingly sensitive side. He'd like his freedom too but misunderstands where it will come from so hilariously gets drunk with the mariners.

As the casting is gender blind most of the other roles are played by women including Prospero. It's a massive part and full marks to Karen McCaffney took it on with less than three weeks rehearsal time to give a faultless performance.

 

Innovative set design uses lots of white paper with clever lighting and discrete videos to create the illusion of waves and cliffs. Original music was written by James Neale who also supplied some live musical accompaniment.

If you like Shakespeare it's definitely worth a trip across Eel Brook Common. It's above the Eel Brook pub, New Kings Road until 24th October.

Book tickets online priced £12 or £9 concessions.

October 16, 2015