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The Tempest

James Reynard, Pippa Meekings and Ellis J Wells in Rain or Shine Theatre Company's The Tempest. Photo: Tony Hickey

Open-air Shakespeare performed in the grounds of a school founded just 18 years after his death carries a special frisson.

Rain or Shine Theatre Company’s artistic director James Reynard, who carries the additional burden of interpreting Prospero’s (and Shakespeare’s) requiem to his art in the great “Our revels now are ended” speech, has mainly gone for a light-hearted approach, while only occasionally viewing The Tempest as a parable of good and evil.

The technique of having the players create the sounds and spirits of the enchanted isle works well, while on the more serious side, Prospero’s constant battle to keep his magical staff under control is a powerful image of his rough magic.

Shakespeare’s other message, of the power of love overcoming the desire for revenge, is mirrored both in the scenes of joyous first love between Miranda – lent more self-assurance than usual by Pippa Meekings – and Ellis J Wells’ Ferdinand, and in the downfall of the villainous plot on Prospero’s life by Caliban, an impressively contrasting double by Wells.

Rob Keeves, a particularly annoying Trinculo, and Anthony Young, a self-serving Stephano, keep the comic scenes in the forefront of the action, while Claire Tucker brings a mystical touch to the fantasy world as Ariel.

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As with much of open-air Shakespeare, the beauty of the verse is sacrificed to keeping the narrative, and the laughs, flowing