The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last work and it’s full of mischief. A magical ex-Duke brings a watery storm upon a nearby ship, causing it to wreck upon his island and allowing him to wreak havoc on the lives of its surviving crew.
Like most of Shakespeare’s work, The Tempest follows a few interweaving stories. First there is that of Propsero, the usurped Duke of Milan exiled to a deserted island and bent on regaining his position by using magic and cunning. Assisting him is Ariel, an impish spirit he saved who now owes him a year’s worth of debt.
Then there’s the story of Prospero’s mightily pissed-off servant, Caliban, whose mother was the rightful ruler of the island before her death. When seeing an opportunity to dispose of his cruel master, Caliban eagerly enlists the help of a couple of drunkards who have been marooned on the island.
Also stranded on the islands is the current Duke of Milan, the King, his court, and Prince Ferdinand, who quickly falls for Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. Of course adventure ensues for these lost travelers and for the audience who is treated to laughter, music, circus tricks, and superb acting under the stars.
For the most part, Bear and Company play Shakespeare straight but this should not deter anyone from seeing The Tempest. The story is easy to follow thanks to some strong ensemble work and the entertaining physicality of the actors. Eleanor Crowder’s direction is superb: the show flows effortlessly, never lagging or being bogged down by prose. The second half is particularly fun to watch thanks to the antics of Stephano (Sarah Waisvisz) and Trinculo (Alexis Scott) as well as the over-the-top romantic overtures of Ferdinand (Isaac Giles) and Miranda (Hannah Ehman).
Ehman is absolutely captivating, both as love-struck Miranda and as the elderly adviser Gonzalo. She brought vivacious energy and a sincere commitment to her characters that I found impressive and charming. Hers is a rising star definitely worth watching. Zoe Georgaras’ Ariel was also a favorite with her deft fire-weaving skills, exquisite movements, and playful nature. The acting in this production was underscored nicely by gorgeous music throughout: Doreen Taylor-Claxton’s voice was especially wonderful and I enjoyed the instrumental accompaniments.
The one thing I’d have liked to see more of in this production is character development, particularly for Prospero. The emotional lives of the characters weren’t explored as fully as they could have been: the focus seemed to be on storytelling and amusement which Bear and Company delivered in spades. Overall, The Tempest makes for a great night out and is family-friendly fare perfect for a warm summer’s eve.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. Were you mesmerized by the flames or did that seem gimmicky? Did you cheer or yawn at the ending? Who was your favorite character? Join the discussion and leave a comment below!
The Tempest runs in parks across Ottawa until July 26th.