Theatre Review: The Tempest at the Little Angel Theatre

The fairytale magic of THE TEMPEST is brought to the fore in this puppet-production jointly staged by Islington’s Little Angel Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

THIS collaboration between Islington’s Little Angel Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company is not so much a puppet interpretation of Shakespeare’s last play, as it is an abridgement for ages seven plus in which Ariel and Caliban, the two characters of ambiguous humanity, take the form of Lyndie Wright’s captivating rod puppets.

Shakespeare’s language remains in tact, with the noises of the isle evoked by Ben Glasstone’s beautifully harmonised songs. The squawking of seagulls lets us know that the storm is on its way, and we catch a glimpse of Prospero in all his wizard-like glory before a floating miniature boat falls apart.

The airy spirit Ariel takes the form of a delicately wistful pixie that flits and twitches around the auditorium (accompanied by Jonathan Storey’s delightful voice work). Caliban, a life-sized rubber creation, is a cross between a giant reptile and an ogre, a misunderstood monster longing for a bit of affection and acceptance.

David Fielder is a schoolmaster-like Prospero with a sardonic streak and Anneika Rose, radiant in white, makes a kittenish Miranda. The coarse antics of comic foils Trinculo and Stephano (Ruth Calkin and Brett Brown) provide many of the biggest laughs for younger audience members.

The puppetry is somewhat diluted in comparison to other Little Angel shows and the betrothal masque that marks Prospero’s swansong is rather messy and underwhelming.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see the play’s fairytale elements - often overlooked in “adult” productions - take centre stage. This is particularly apt in the immediacy of the Little Angel Theatre, where surprises are always in the air.

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* Showing at the Little Angel Theatre in Dagmar Passage, N1, until Sunday, May 15.