Shakespeare: The Tempest

Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Scotney Castle, Friday 31st August 2018

Not quite the end of summer but the evening cooled rapidly and by the final chorus it was quite dark in Scotney Castle grounds. Not that this dampened the spirits, either of those in the audience or the spirits on stage.

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men make a virtue of not only playing with a handful of actors but working outdoors without any amplification. Where the Globe has an inbuilt acoustic, the lawns at Scotney don’t and the cast have to throw their voices with considerable skill to be heard, which they are throughout. Moreover, the small ensemble means that most of the cast are on stage for most of the time, with only Danann McAleer’s Prospero – an unusual approach, emotional anxiety leading to heavily staccato phrasing –  taking a single part. That the outcome is so convincing is down to the clarity with which the text and story line are conveyed and the accuracy of characterisation even within triple castings.

Added to this the music – a cappella throughout – is always apt and supportive to the narrative situation. In this, William Pennington’s Ariel is superbly cast, being able to physicalise the verse as well as sing and play the whistle with effective skill.

Simon Jenkins’ Miranda – the only female character in the play – is touching and gently naïve without ever seeming to overplay the femininity, a tribute not only to his acting but the writing given that the part was originally played for a young man.

Morgan Brind’s setting works well with its decaying ship and rapid changes of level, allowing the cast to relate to each other in a wide range of positions within a very small set. Peter Stickney’s direction keeps the play moving swiftly but has ensured the text makes the primary impact not unnecessary stage business.

This was the last performance this season in England as the company is off to France and Germany.

Hopefully they will be back again soon.