Exiled to an island, patiently awaiting justice, books of magical arts used to summon an old adversary to land to face the righting of wrongs: Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, is currently in production as this year’s ‘Shakespeare In The Park’ at Fort Canning, from now until May 24th.
SRT has staged an open-air Shakespeare each May for five years in a row now, and the scope and quality of these performance has varied greatly. In the Singapore theatre scene there is a general absence of criticism, which results in all sorts of turkeys strutting the stage to wild applause and acclaim from sycophants in the blogosphere, so a glowing online review is, alas, simply no indicator of a good night out. Fortunately for SRT, this year’s play is ahead of that curve, although by no means a great measure. Nonetheless, this year’s production is carried off mostly well with fresh, lively production values and a handful of memorably endearing performances.
In a play that has been so widely performed, and so universally studied (I could hear audience members reciting the lines of Caliban at several points throughout), this production is confidently carried by a powerful, masculine, and very European Prospero (Simon Robson), who restores his former station with force and a strong sense of compassion. Robson does this convincingly and memorably. His daughter, Miranda (Julie Wee), through a somewhat strained delivery, comes across less as the gentle, beguiling handmaiden and more of the frustrated, difficult teenager cooped up at home for too long; gentility and delicateness were hard to find in among her many lines.
Caliban (Theo Ogundipe) is rendered as a half-man, half-lizard, and the comedy of the moon-calf underneath the gabardine is boisterous and enjoyable. Ogundipe’s delivery of Caliban’s classic appeals to justice is by-the-book – his performance didn’t, to my mind, advocate quite passionately enough for Caliban’s situation, whereas the character’s foolishness is clearly made apparent by Daniel Jenkins’s superb rendition of Stephano – caring, jovial at first, and a bully and a lout later, thoroughly convincing.
Worthy of mention, too, was a most endearing Gonzalo (Terence Wilton) whose adorably grandfathery portrayal was very satisfying to watch.
Production values-wise, this is streamlined, and slick, with beige and red all over. The omission of the first scene of the play is an excellent decision, instead replacing it with a beautiful visual montage of a storm which is quite ingeniously staged. The sleek, red harpy and the spirit dogs bring alive the viciousness of Prospero’s anger, with the royal party’s white linen suits implying casual decadence.
An original, lively and solid production, on balance, with some memorable performances – if not perhaps universally so – but certainly worth stumping up for.
The Tempest, directed by Braham Murray, is running until 24th May, Fort Canning Park – tickets from usual sources.