The Tempest review at Springhead Primary School – ‘raucous introduction to Shakespeare’

Royal Shakespeare Company's First Encounter: The Tempest. Photo: Elle De Burg

This condensed version of The Tempest for young people, touring schools around the country, begins with some friendly introductions.

“Good afternoon Prospero”, the young students at Springhead Primary chant, with that familiar intonation, to Darren Raymond as if he’s just another teacher introducing a lesson.

Raymond explains who the characters are, and the storm starts. The tempest itself is, at the behest of Prospero, a symphony of clicks and claps and stomps conjured enthusiastically by the children, ensuring that the hall is full of noises.

The Royal Shakespeare Company works with a large network of schools, not only encouraging them to teach Shakespeare and to see it performed live, but to bring best practice from rehearsal rooms into classroom teaching too. It’s certainly worked in this village primary school in Stoke On Trent, whose every inch of wall is decorated with Shakespeare-related work across a number of subjects, from English to Science.

The production itself, performed by RSC company members, is easy to follow, it’s raucous and fun, and even raises a laugh from the children at one point (when a gender-swapped Trincula says Caliban “smells like a fish”). Besides the language, something else is always happening, whether that’s music or movement, the battering of a drum or Ariel’s billowing cloak ensnaring its prisoners.

Raymond’s Prospero almost sings his lines, holding one sonorous through-note as he sweeps assuredly around the school hall, the charismatic king of this small island. He’s not only a strong Prospero, he’s an excellent compere too, chatting with the students to ensure that the performance is only one part of their encounter with Shakespeare.


Raucous production of The Tempest introducing Shakespeare to young audiences