The Tempest review at Stafford Castle – ‘outstanding, magical production’
Now in its 27th year and long established as one of Europe’s leading Shakespeare productions, Stafford Gatehouse’s annual tribute to the playwright in the open air at Stafford Castle continues to impress and this superb version of The Tempest can only further enhance its reputation.
The emphasis is once again on accessibility and entertainment and it does not disappoint on either front. This interpretation is a total delight from start to finish, with not a single weak link in sight. Set in the glamorous 1930s, Frances Collier’s imaginative staging sees the action played out on a lavish cruise liner and cleverly combined remote island off the coast of Somalia.
To set the mood, we are first treated to some stylish shipboard song and dance routines to see in the New Year of 1936 – and the surprises just keep coming from then on. Treats include several magical illusions designed by magicians Morgan and West, a delightful masque sequence and marvellous singing.
Comedy elements are delicious, too, the laughs coming largely courtesy of the excellent Jonathan Charles with his drunken Stephano, while James Hornsby’s Trinculo appears throughout with a “bonus” character in the form of a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll.
On the more serious side, Stephen Beckett gives a masterful performance as Prospero, while Gavin Swift is brilliantly versatile in the role of the enigmatic sprite Ariel. Under the crisp direction of Clare Prenton, the lengthy story moves at a cracking pace. Inspired music and lighting complete this wonderful offering.