>the tempest by the theatre practice

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date: 30 apr 2004
>time: 8pm
>venue: guinness theatre, the substation
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


THE TEMPEST is a difficult work to stage - it consists, for the most part, of various groups of people wandering about an enchanted island, all under the control of magician/ruler Prospero. The various strands of the story can seem fragmentary and unrelated, so it is to the credit of this production that it makes this play feel like a satisfying whole.

Three actors play all the characters, in part contributing to the sense of unity that pervades this production. It also helps that Austrian director Martina Winkel's set design evokes an island without being too specific, with bowls of water and heaps of sand dotted across the space, so that we move fluently from one location to another without the disruption of set changes.

>>'This production's great strength is in the sheer sense of magic that pervades every moment.'

This production's great strength is in the sheer sense of magic that pervades every moment. From the faint but constant soundscape by Helge Hinteregger to the shadow pictures that flit across the back wall, the theatre fairly tingles with an electric sense of possibility. Rather than watching the characters stumble their way through various bits of sorcery as is usually the case, we share the same magical space that they inhabit.

Chacko Vadaketh is a majectic Prospero, and displays fine comic timing as Stephano. Jonathan Lim turns in a suitably grotesque performance as Caliban, although his triumph is his Ferdinand, in which he captures the bashfulness and rather grubby sensuality that pervades adolescent courtship. Yeo Yann Yann is a revelation - her Miranda is utterly compelling, growing imperceptibly from awkward girl to confident young woman. She has a little trouble speaking the Shakespearean verse, but her presence is undeniably watchable.

The play loses its way a little towards the end. The massive reunion scene that usually ties up all the loose ends becomes messy and confusing as the three actors dash about playing all fifteen or so characters who should be on stage (some end up, confusingly, being played by puppets). Still, this does not dispel the enchantment created in the rest of the show.

There are plays that engage your brain and plays that engage your heart. I always thought of THE TEMPEST as being in the former category, but The Theatre Practice has shown that this play has a great big heart beating beneath its intellectual surface.