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The Tempest review (Burnt Orange Theatre)

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Burnt Orange Theatre is a London-based theatre company which provides professional-level performance opportunities to young people looking to pursue a career in the arts. Over the next week or so they will be presenting two shows at the Drayton Arms Theatre in Kensington: Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Nick Payne’s ‘Constellations’. Last night I headed into the city to catch their version of The Tempest. I have an interest in Shakespeare and have reviewed a handful of interpretations of the classic work, but this was my first time seeing this particular play. Packed full of sorcery, characters with their own agendas and turbulent events, the company has created an ensemble-focused, physical interpretation of the Bard’s text at the intimate Gloucester Road venue.

The Tempest leaflet outside The Drayton Arms Theatre, London

Shakespeare on a Fringe stage

Adapting Shakespeare’s drama into a Fringe format, the 5-act play has been condensed into a 75-minute piece of theatre without an intermission. In this shortened structure, it is important to go into the show with prior knowledge of the characters and storyline, with some figures only receiving a brief introduction. That being said, it is relatively easy to grasp the underlying themes of sorcery and betrayal, which have helped the play stand the test of time.

Physical theatre

This production of The Tempest focuses on physical interactions, specifically the power of body language in creating the roaring waves and the magical spirits of the play. Emotive choreography and enigmatic chants are used to highlight the supernatural sections of the script, with the performers working together to create the enchanting characters. The cohesion between the cast is seamless, with every movement and transitional sequence focusing on formations and the recreation of the difficult environment.

The Tempest (Burnt Orange Theatre) production photo
© Phoebe Sule of Adedoja Visuals

Ensemble structure

With so many performers on stage for the entire performance, it is a little difficult to keep track of who is playing each part within the narrative. The actors move in and out of ensemble roles, each taking a turn to contribute to the complex plot. Whilst director Anna Blackburn’s decision to place the ensemble at the centre of the production is admirable and paves the way for some compelling group performances, it means there is lesser character definition. Nonetheless, choreographed movements are used to alert the audience to principal characters at key moments, which in turn improves the overall clarity of the piece.

Set and lighting design

The back wall of the stage has been dressed with ropes and seafaring equipment, in keeping with the theme of the play. The set is bare, with benches supporting the company throughout the entire performance and original sounds, varied lighting and fluid choreography helping to recreate the tense atmosphere of the island. The overall ambience is desolate, reflecting Prospero’s (Ioan Oosthuizen) controlling influence on the island and creating a foreboding sense of terror. I really enjoyed the drama of the visual design which combined with the brilliant ensemble performances, makes the interpretation incredibly engaging.

The Tempest (Burnt Orange Theatre) production photo
© Phoebe Sule of Adedoja Visuals

A raw interpretation of the Bard’s work

In this version of The Tempest, the production team has provided a platform for rising stars to truly embody the complex characters through thrilling performances and fluid movements. If this performance was anything to go by, the cast have an exciting career in the arts ahead of them. Standout performances are Sarah Carvalho (Stephano), Florence Chevallier (Trinculo) and Lauren McIntyre (Caliban) who each provide some much needed comedy respite within a relatively dark production. Last minute tickets for The Tempest can be purchased via the Drayton Arms Theatre’s website, with performances running until Saturday 27th April.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for The Tempest was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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