Review The Tempest, Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival by Georgia Bevan.

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It’s that time of year again, the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival has returned. To start, Everyman Theatre presents ‘The Tempest’, the timeless Shakespeare play with a modernised twist.

The play follows Prospero (Lewis Cook, who delivers one of the show’s standout performances), and his well-timed plan to get revenge on all of those who wronged him, who are now- by chance or by magic- stranded on this deserted island with him. Additionally, there are many intertwining plots and many characters. The audience’s favourite was the trio of Caliban (Luigi Challis), Trinculo (Elinor O’Leary), and Stephano (Daniel Ivor Jones). The laughs were consistent with these three’s antics, effortlessly translating Shakespeare’s dialogue into the universal language of comedy.

Other standouts are the young lovers, Miranda (Seren Vickers), and Ferdinand (Sean Rhys-James). Both actors are committed to selling their fledgling romance, and they too offer creative moments of comedy. Performances like these make ‘The Tempest’ an authentic and dedicated rendition of the Shakespeare classic. This- combined with interesting staging ideas and other, additional quirks added into the production, speaks to the ingenuity of director Rich Tunley.

The production design of the play is also rather impressive. The beach-like set- which held out well in the evening drizzle- has many cleverly-used quirks. A standout moment was when Ariel (Amanda Ataou), appears as a Harpy, brandishing wings that look like tattered paper, as the actors behind work to flap them menacingly. It makes for a great effect as the character as she terrifies the onlooking characters. The commitment to this stripped-back ‘beach’ aesthetic, as characters carry around dead logs, and wave worn, tattered flags, blends well with the magical element, which is portrayed through great physical comedy by the whole cast.

This modernisation plays to the production’s benefit, pushing the source material in unique directions. Aside from the obvious – a plane crashes onto the island, like something akin to the series ‘Lost’. But this modernisation also allows for some more modern humour, and for references to more recent songs. The audience was singing along and really enjoying themselves when the actors suddenly burst into a rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. On paper, that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it actually does.

This rendition of ‘The Tempest’ is impressively put together, and crowd-pleasing fun, one that is guaranteed to leave the audience satisfied. The festival can always be counted on to deliver when it comes to Shakespeare, and ‘The Tempest’ is a strong start on what looks to be a promising summer.

‘The Tempest’ is at the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, June 22nd – June 28th.

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