THEATRE REVIEW:  RSC: First Encounters With Shakespeare – The Tempest – Springhead Primary School, Talke Pitts, Stoke-on-Trent  

This show, which is touring to schools, has developed from the RSC’s recent main house production of The Tempest.  An abridged 90 minute version, it works perfectly. I found it clear, immersive and entertaining as did the Year 4 and Year 6 children I saw it with.

Darren Raymond as a charismatic and authoritative Prospero literally conducts the storm having showed the children in a short introduction how to contribute the right noises. Matthew MacPherson contributes a very vulnerable, dispossessed Caliban covered in mud and cuts and hopping impressively about on statement crutches. Then briefly empowered by Trincula (Laura Cairns) and Stephana (Alison Arnopp) he springs into life only to be dashed down again in a suitably sour, sad and manipulative moment at the end. It’s a thoughtful emphasis.

Sarah Kameela Impey’s Ariel is exotic, otherworldly, almost serpentine in her movements and it is no effort at all to accept that she is invisible to many characters. Caleb Frederick brings a lot of presence and a chocolatey voice to Antonio and Elly Condron’s Miranda has all the right elements of adolescent naivety, knowingness and freshness.

This The Tempest, imaginatively directed by Aileen Gonsalves, is an ensemble piece for a cast of eight with a great deal of versatile and talented doubling so that most of the shipwrecked party are female and successfully so. And who needs stage lights? School hall curtains are drawn, standard striplights are on and the power of the plot and language does the rest.

Review by Susan Elkin