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Creation Theatre Company - The Tempest

1st July to 13th September 2003.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Magical isle

Creation Theatre: The Tempest, at Headington Hill Park, Oxford, until September 13

Creation Theatre Company's second Shakespeare of the summer is another inventive, creative experience which cannot fail to entertain a diverse audience of locals and tourists.

In what might be billed 'The Tempest Magic Show', director Zoe Seaton, a veteran of six previous Creation productions, again draws upon the quicksilver trickery of visual consultant Paul McEneaney.

The play's natural and spiritual imagery are so fully evoked that there are times when, beneath the trees of the park's arboretum you begin to sense the 'rough magic' drawn out by the direction. Despite being told by a colleague that the answer was "staring me in the face", I am still trying to work out how three of the shipwrecked passengers manage to emerge from a table-top, conjured like the later goddesses in the masque, out of nothing.

My only criticism is the one that I had for Seaton's Macbeth at the BMW plant; despite the pleasure gained marvelling at the ingenuity, we are denied the full text.

The Tempest is heavily cut; even the shipwreck scene is gone, reduced to a clever image of a cardboard ship sinking in a model box. Antonio, Sebastian and Alonso are all but written out and even the epilogue is lost, losing our connection to Shakespeare himself, drowning his book.

With a speedy running time, the tomfoolery of Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano and the emerging love affair between Miranda and Ferdinand have a greater prominence. However, the most significant relationship in this re-imagining of The Tempest is that between genial schoolteacherish Prospero (Robert Lister) and his red-haired punkish, puckish Irish spirit Ariel (Seamus Allen). Prospero as the conjurer, with Ariel his lithe assistant, is supremely confident in his bookish superiority. Sending Miranda (Raewyn Lippert) to sleep suspended in mid-air is only one of his arsenal of tricks.

Caliban (Scottish-accented Simon Donaldson) is not a deformed creature, but a dirty, slightly angry young man. With her taste for grungy clothes and rebellious feelings towards Prospero. I am surprised that Miranda doesn't fancy the monster over the priggish public-schoolboyish Ferdinand (Tom Mallaburn). Go, enjoy, while the weather stays good.