Running both as part of Anywhere Festival and Newfarm Nash Theatre’s own season, The Tempest took place in one of the rooms that is part of the Merthyr Road Uniting Church. There is a small canteen that serves drinks, but be warned you cannot bring an unfinished drink into the performance space.
With other Anywhere Festival shows, the writing is just as important to the enjoyment of the show as the performance is. However, this is Shakespeare, and who am I to criticize him? Other than to say that it is a quite long show, the audience basically know what they are in for.
The set was well done and suited the stage quite well, and the costuming was very good. Combined with this, a backlit cyclorama added blue skies and red sunsets that really set the scene and added to the mood and atmosphere of the show. The acting, as with any amateur show, was uneven, but there were some who had obviously tread the boards many times before. The standouts in this regard were the roles of Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano, whose commitment to their roles really lifted their scenes. They performed the comedic parts of the comedy with relish, and the audience who until then had been listless responded very well to them. The majority of the speaking characters were well done, particularly by those with less experience.
The one biggest thing that took me out of the show was the sprites. They acted as assistants to Ariel, and were used as a device to set the scene and tone throughout the show. This was an excellent idea, but they were more distracting than anything else. I found myself constantly drawn away from the action by bored looking sprites whose jerky and uncommitted movements made it seem like they would rather be anywhere else than on stage, even during the titular tempest. Their appearances did not add anything to the scenes that they were in. I would suggest that the issue is direction, where an interesting idea was implemented even though it did not play to the strengths of the cast. More attention in this area could make it a striking scene, but I feel that overall it was somewhat lacking.
One other thing to note: there was original music written for the show, which was performed by the composer on a piano and tin whistle. The score was lovely, but the singing that accompanied the music was not always so. This comprised very little of the show so it is not a large issue. It was nice to see the attempt made, however, particularly for an amateur company to have music written specifically for them.
All in all, it is still a show that I would encourage people to see. Supporting amateur theatre is something that I feel is important, as it will encourage more people to be involved in the arts. Although it was not a flawless show, there were some definite highlights that made what can sometimes be a difficult text very accessible to the public.