Shakespeare’s Tempest is a fairly standard romance, including a storm, a few misunderstandings, a few laughs and a bromance. As such, its lines are not especially captivating and it relies heavily on a fine delivery from the actors. For them to pull it off as comedic, the performers have to be quick on their feet. For instance, when the stage direction is “Enter Ferdinand, carrying a log”, and the entire scene consists of Ferdinand raving about his love for a girl who has absolutely nothing going for her – aside from being the only girl on the island, which does give her an edge – it takes a special kind of effort to be amusing. To see Ferdinand not just carrying a log, but sprinting from end to end of the theatre holding the log aloft and bellowing about love, was side-splittingly funny.
Likewise, the alcoholic trio of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo had a brilliant slapstick style of which Shakespeare would no doubt have approved. Caliban in particular was a fearless actor. Many of the others fell into the trap of sighing out the lines as if they were poetry. Caliban tackled his part, voice leaping and groaning and cracking. All the while he spoke with the regular cadence of speech, not trying to rhyme or to make sense of the line breaks without reference to the meaning of the text. It was a refreshing change.
The only real issue was the sound. The speakers were dreadful, so lines that should have been quick and funny were often muffled into an incomprehensible garble. The eerie soundtrack was crackly and obviously piped through. More than that, it was choppy, with abrupt starts and stops that distracted from the suspension of reality. Worst of all was the attempt at singing from Arial and the other spirits. Out of tune, out of time, and without any tonal quality, it added nothing to the performance.
The Freewill Shakespeare Festival runs in Hawrelak Park through to July 22nd. The Tempest alternates nights with Julius Caesar.
Photos courtesy of Vue Weekly and the Edmonton Journal.