The Tempest at the Print Room at the Coronet
The Tempest is the first Shakespearean production by the Print Room, now in its new home at the Coronet in Notting Hill, a disused cinema that was reopened as a theatre in 2014.
The opening atmosphere is dark and eerie, with a vast, dirt-filled stage and swishing ocean sound effects setting the scene. It’s the (extended) calm before the storm (the show kicks off nearly 20 minutes behind schedule), before the stage erupts into the first crashing shipwreck episode, as the actors use the space of the entire auditorium, running through the stalls and creating an air of chaos. Lights flash and thunder booms, and although much of the text is lost under sound effects and shouting, it’s a high-energy start that creates tension.
The scene that follows is a rather slow unravelling of Miranda (Charlotte Brimble) and her father Prospero (Kevin McMonagle), and plods along in contrast with the heart-racing opening sequence. The show really picks up with the arrival of Ferdinand on the island, portrayed by Hugh John, who provides two stand-out performances in the production (he also takes on the role of the King of Naples’ brother, Sebastian). The relationship between him and Miranda is played with real tenderness and connection, and is one of the better moments in the otherwise staggered first half.
Another notable highlight is the humorous “man or fish” scene between the King’s jester, Trinculo, drunkard Stefano and the unfortunate Caliban. The pace is much better in such sections, and the relationships seem more developed as lines bounce quickly between the actors. Billy Seymour plays Caliban with great physicality, but his slapstick-esque character differs in tone to that of the more restrained Ariel, portrayed by Kristin Winters with a statue-like stillness. Winters sings and performs on a range of musical instruments in transitions between scenes to good effect, creating a disjointed and unsettling coldness of the island, holding the command of both characters and audience.
Ben Ormerod’s lighting is uncomplicated but effective, representing the vast emptiness of the island and often covering Ariel in a halo-like spotlight. It’s an ambitious production that ticks many boxes but doesn’t quite satisfy, and although the play is plugged as “the world in two hours”, it pushes on to nearly three. The show is still worth a watch, however, not just for the enchanting setting of the Print Room, but for Hugh John’s stand-out and engaging performance.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The Tempest is at the Print Room at the Coronet from 21st November until 17th December 2016, for further information or to book visit here.