The Tempest at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London
“The bats waft around during the closing scenes”
Iris Theatre has now opened its double-bill of open-air shows in the glorious ‘hidden’ gardens behind St Paul’s Church, in the very beating heart of Covent Garden. The theatre programme has some really fascinating articles and, to quote one of them: It is interesting that the term ‘tempest’ in Alchemy means ‘sifting impurities from a mixture’.
How prescient a statement, as this bold production itself is in need of a little ‘sifting’. It’s a promenade presentation - the audience moved each time there was a shift in the play: totalling five times! From one hard bench to another. I just felt it completely unnecessary as the poor actors had to keep picking up the dropped pace and atmosphere that they had so gallantly been creating.
(Prospero holding Miranda)
A small cast of six actors, most playing two parts, valiantly fight their surroundings to tell us this magical tale. There are illusions and trickery throughout - these sleights of hand adding to the fantastical mood. Holding the fort is Prospero - played by a booming Jamie Newall. Joanne Thomson is his daughter, Miranda: wide-eyed and flirty. A pure moment of theatre happened as she slept - placed under a spell by her father - as a bespotted blackbird chick flew onto the stage, resting on her thigh for a few seconds. It waited it had the audience’s full attention before flying off…
The brightest star in this firmament is Charlotte Christensen, as Ariel. She dances, sings, plays instruments and flits about: her beautiful and piercing blue eyes reaching the back row.
(St Paul’s Church)
After the interval - for the overblown masque scene to occur - we are led into the church itself. The audience gasped in awe, making me question why the whole play wasn’t performed in this space: Prospero’s ‘cave’. Acoustically and visually stunning it felt like a wasted opportunity.
The comedy, as usual comes from the drunken servants Trinculo and Stephano.
(Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban)
Paul Brendan and Reginald Edwards are delightful and fun, adding to the gaiety of their scenes. They will, no doubt, get funnier as the run progresses. The ensemble is completed by Prince Plockey (who plays the slave Caliban, coming to life in the drinking scenes) and Linford Johnson (the love interest!). Linford’s Prince Ferdinand is a little too quiet and bland for my liking - maybe I prefer my Prince’s to have a tad more oomph!
The bats waft around during the closing scenes in the garden - even in central London! Who knew?! - and it all ends happily. Two and a half hours, with no onsite toilet… No wonder I was a little distracted from the play.
Photography: Nick Rutter
Venue: St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9ED
Running: Until Saturday 28th July 2018 at 7.30pm,
plus matinees at 2.30pm
(Please refer to their website for exact performance
Running Time: 2hr40m (with an interval)
Tickets: £15 - £20
Twitter: @IrisTheatre #IrisTempest
Producers: Iris Theatre
Director: Daniel Winder
Musical Director: Tim Shaw
Set Design: Mike Leopold