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Stage Dragon Review: The Tempest Played By Guildford Shakespeare Company

Published on: 22 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 22 Jul, 2022

By Alice Fowler

The Tempest is Guildford Shakespeare Company’s 50th show and, true to form, this ever-innovative company has pulled out all the stops. Prepare to see Stoke Park as you have never experienced it before.

Haunted and vulnerable, Daniel Krikler as Caliban.

GSC’s base, next to Wildwood, is transformed into a creaking, wooden, storm-tossed ship. From there, in what truly is a promenade adventure, we are taken to corners of the park – ornamental gardens, ponds and rockeries, fern-filled groves – that even regular park visitors may not have seen before.

The Tempest is Shakespeare’s final solo play. Set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero lives with his daughter Miranda and two servants – Caliban, a savage monster figure, and Ariel, a spirit – it is a tale of bitterness and revenge, first love and ultimately, forgiveness

With her magical staff, Johanne Murdock, a strong but beleaguered Prospero.

In this case, Prospero is a woman, winningly portrayed by actress Johanne Murdock. Mannishly elegant in white shirt, dark trousers and braces, Murdock’s Prospero is a feminist hero for our times, valiantly juggling motherhood, self-doubt, survival and a toxic longing for revenge. Prospero, we working mothers see you.

Director Caroline Devlin sets her production in 1912, just after the Edwardian era and the year the Titanic sank. Set and costume designer Neil Irish conjures up a wonderfully atmospheric set, of barrels, bird-cages and books, atop which white sails flutter in the evening breeze.

As the great wooden ship splits in half, its passengers washed into the sea, Prospero tells her daughter Miranda that she herself has magicked up the storm, to take revenge on those on board for casting her out from Italian society.

Angel of the park, Rosalind Blessed as the spirit, Ariel.

Prospero’s own sister, Antonio (Sarah Gobran) dreamt up this long-ago coup, stealing Prospero’s title as Duke of Milan, and casting Prospero and her then-infant daughter out to sea on a dilapidated boat.

Without Gonzalo (Matt Pinches), a trustworthy councillor, the pair would certainly have drowned. Meanwhile, Alonso, the King of Naples (Jim Creighton), mourns his son Ferdinand, whom he believes lost in the shipwreck.

Spirit and human worlds collide as Prospero conjures spirits and enchantment through a shake of her curved staff. Rosalind Blessed is wonderful as the spirit Ariel, while Daniel Krikler (recently an acrobatic Puck in GSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) convinces as a haunted, maddened yet vulnerable Caliban.

The Tempest can be seen as an allegory of Europeans colonising foreign lands. Here that interpretation is kept at bay, with an emphasis instead on first love and forgiveness. Amid a top-notch cast, Dewi Mutiara Sarginson shines as Miranda; her love scenes with the equally talented Benjamin Aluwihare feeling fresh and new.

GSC’s co-founders, Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches, are in sparkling form, as befits this, their 50th production. Both must be thanked and congratulated for bringing such a huge array of dynamic and entrancing shows to Guildford.

Stoke Park is looking at its best, for which Guildford Borough Council’s parks department also must be thanked. Come on up and enjoy the show.

The Tempest by the GSC is on until Saturday, July 30. You can book tickets online here.

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