Right: Barry Haworth as Prospero and Frances Foo as Ariel
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Brenda White
New Farm Nash Theatre
Merthyr Rd Uniting Church
“We are such stuff as dreams are made of” said the program notes of tonight’s show. The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays and is performed by the New Farm Nash Theatre as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, here in Brisbane.
It follows the story of Prospero, sorcerer and wronged man who has been trapped on an island for quite some time with his daughter, Miranda. Prospero , once a duke of Milan, dreams of re-instating his position, and that of his daughter.
So when the opportunity arrives for Prospero to have his revenge and bring himself and Miranda back to Milan, he pounces, creating a fantastic storm and shipwrecking the royal entourage who are on their way back from Tunis, having married off the daughter of the king. As the ship is wrecked, Prospero, through the help of Ariel his sprite, allows that not one hair is harmed on the passengers’ heads. Instead, they are all separated.
Finding their way back to one another is no easy task as the island is rough and unforgiving. Some of the characters meet with good fortune and others not so much. Nevertheless, the ending is a happy one.
This particular production was highly enjoyable with each actor displaying good skills and energy. The original music by Stuart Crisp, music director, was beautiful and lent well to the piece with its romantic little motifs. The text was easily interpreted and made it quite easy to follow which, in my opinion, is the most important factor to take into account when performing Shakespeare.
The fun aspect of the Anywhere Theatre Festival is that the locations of each production is different and can be placed virtually anywhere. Here, at the Merthyr Road Uniting Church, one experiences a cosy atmosphere. While the space is on the small side, it does not detract, and in fact, it enhances the reality of the theatrical production as the audience can feel more in touch with it and the actors.
The set was made good use of and was constructed in such a way so that the actors could really interact with it. I find this always a bonus in theatre as the set should really be more than just scenery in a show. The standard of the acting was quite good too, with, as I mentioned earlier, but with it being an opening night, it is understandable that some slips occurred here and there. These were minor, however.
While all the actors played well my favourites were Frances Foo, who played Ariel. She was energetic and playful in her performance of this loveable sprite. She really embraced this mischievous role and took it in her stride.
Jason Nash as Stephano the drunken butler was also very amusing. Keeping up a constantly drunk appearance can’t be easy but he did this with an ease and breeziness that melded with his hilarious bawdy chansons. He had the audience laughing for most of the time he was on stage which is a testament to Shakespeare but also to him for interpreting the text well.
What I liked about this play was not only the set, the acting and text interpretation and music but also the costuming. Despite the fact this is community theatre without the frills of big budgets to fill I found the costuming to be unique, in some cases, and interesting. Thus, Yvonne Mack, Frances Foo and Brenda White should be commended for their work in the costuming department.
To sum up, New Farm Nash Theatre did a good job with their rendition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The costuming and sound and direction all lent to a pleasant performance of such a renowned play and had the audience laughing along with the jokes and revelry and sympathising with the misfortunes that befell the unfortunate characters.
And that is what theatre should be, no matter if it’s on QPAC or a small stage at the back of a church, theatre should always be about connecting with the audience and creating works that are gleaming with pride and hard work.