Edinburgh Fringe 2017
An enchanting outdoor production of the Shakespeare play best suited to the capricious Edinburgh climate – The Tempest.
The wind is howling, blowing everything in C South’s Lutton Place splendid garden all over the place; anything not firmly anchored has long since made a bid for freedom, whisked away by the tempest in full flow around us.
How appropriate, then, that the splendid body of actors in the C Theatre company are staging an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, complete with the additional distractions of wandering children, people coming to and from other shows in the venue, wailing sirens, traffic noise and the need to tie on pieces of costume to avoid them being swept to goodness knows where.
But aficionados of outdoor Shakespeare are made of stern stuff. Looking as though they’re headed for a week’s alpine climbing, they huddled down for what turned out to be a spell-binding evening of theatre, technically and artistically the best Tempest I’ve seen in years and easily the best Shakespeare show I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.
As with all of Shakespeare’s plays, the plot’s not changed a lot in centuries, so we’ll not waste a lot of time explaining it. Rather, the stars of this piece are the script editor, director and actors. Oh, and whoever pulled the props and costumes together deserves a huge round of applause for their creativity, in evidence from the outset as, battling against real wind and weather, the crew of good ship Lovebury, an eclectic selection of scrap wood and wheelie bins, soon find themselves literally ship-wrecked with bits flying all over the place.
This being an eight strong crew, there was a significant amount of doubling-up in terms of role playing. The exception was Prospero, played with real gravitas and passion by that veritable doyenne of stage and screen Jennifer McEvoy. Commanding the stage every time she entered, this was a tour de force of a performance.
Particular credit also goes to Roger Carvalho for his wonderfully comedic take on Stephano and his contrasting portrayal of Ferdinand (and other smaller roles). Madhav Vasantha also stood out with his gothic/punk Caliban and his youthful interpretation of old-man of the piece, Gonzalo.
But the show-stealers were a pair of young actors that agents everywhere ought to be making a bee-line for. Charlotte Cracknell as Ariel had the lot; perfect pitch as a singer, ethereal movement and a voice like cut-glass. And Imogen Wilde was equally as inspiring as Miranda and, in complete contrast, the tomfooling Trinculo. Vivacious and charmingly naïve as one and full of idiocy as the other. And possessed of a voice with such stunning clarity and power it overcame everything that Edinburgh’s outdoors could throw at her.
Let’s not forget director Oliver Stephens’ attention to detail either, which was exemplary; the way he used the natural features of the garden, got the actors breaking the fourth wall, the choreography, the way he kept the plot moving and how he coaxed emotion and humour out of his hard-working troupe.
This really was a show that had just about everything; a well edited scrip, great acting, movement, good use of music, costumes and props and cleverly but simply staged. And, given the real-life storm raging around them, this was a crew that more than rose to the challenges presented it.
But how to rate it? It’s a real hidden gem, set as it is some distance from the Fringe hub and deserving of a larger audience, and better weather; it is a must see show for the way it used the shapes and quirks of its outdoor environment; and it’s highly recommended for its acting alone. Best to go and see it and decide for yourselves.
But do remember that it’s outdoors so expect the unexpected. As the metaphorical curtain fell, rain was starting to pour from a sky clear of clouds above. That’s Edinburgh for you.