The Tempest

by William Shakespeare, Directed by Stephen Scammell

24th – 26th November 2016

An extract from the review by Gay Pirie-Weir
FROME Drama Club’s radical reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – one of the Bard’s “entry-level” plays – might have been just what the board of The Globe had in mind when they unceremoniously and controversially ousted Emma Rice in the early stages of her directorship. Director Stephen Scammell set his Tempest in modern costume on an indeterminate island, against a backdrop of blood smeared broken pilings, a couple of useful rocks and a snow-storm of pages from books. Stunning lighting, which he and Mat Tipper designed, made for memorable visual images. The director’s other big idea was switching genders, so that Prospero’s duplicitous sibling became a sister in a slinky dress, loyal courtier Gonzalo was a woman and Ariel was also female. It all made perfect sense.

The Tempest is a play that can run from around two hours to more than three, and the Frome production was on the longer side. There were scenes of beautiful slowness and of frantic activity. Especially memorable was when Prospero called his former court back to him on the island where they were shipwrecked, when motion, light and sound conspired in a moment of stunned shock.

And Pete White’s Ted was an all-too-recognisable wide boy, a flag carrier for the rise of the “Me” generation whose apotheosis is exemplified by It would be impossible to bring off this challenging production without fine acting. Led by the calmly powerful Alan Burgess as Prospero – totally audible from the entire auditorium with no raising of voice – they did a wonderful ensemble job.

Polly Lamb’s Ariel, with her early friendship with Miranda, was a delight, singing as well as she moved and acted. Tom Davies as Ferdinand and Lauren David as Miranda were a convincing pair of first-sight lovers, and Calum Grant put in another memorable FDC performance as the drunken Stephano. Richard Thomas’s Caliban avoided the sometimes caricature nature of the slave and Sue Ross was a coldly scheming Antonia. I will not forget this Tempest in a hurry.