The picturesque wooded gardens of Prescot Parish Church re-imagine an enchanted island where all is not as it seems. Opening to the travails of a ship at sea, we then meet Prospero (Robert Clement-Evans) and his daughter Miranda (Lauren Brown), and learn how 12 years ago his brother, with assistance from Naples, had usurped him as Duke of Milan. Put to sea in a rotten boat, they washed up on a distant island inhabited only by the son of a witch, Caliban (David Kernick), and a spirit, Ariel (Connor Simkins). Since then Prospero has ruled the island and its two inhabitants using magic arts, and having divined that fortune has brought his old enemies close, he raises a tempestuous storm to bring their very ship to be dashed upon its shores.
Miranda has never set eyes upon another human so when she stumbles upon Ferdinand (Kristian Lawrence), son of the King of Naples, who has swum ashore from the wreck, a budding romance ensues, watched over by Prospero to ensure Ferdinand is as sincere as he appears to be.
Then other survivors appear: Alonso (Francesco La Rocca), King of Naples; his brother, Sebastian (Clayton Travis); and Prospero’s own brother, Antonio (Lee Clotworthy), accompanied by Prospero’s honest counsel, Gonzalo (Chris Douglas) and two lords: Adrian (Joseph Edwards) and Francisco (Nathan Benjamin). It’s only a matter of time before Antonio and Sebastian are plotting misdeeds which the loyal Ariel informs Prospero.
And then the fun begins as we meet jester Trinculo (Kieran Hoare) and drunken butler Stephano (Tom Large) who, chancing upon Caliban, serve up some of the funniest scenes. With Caliban hoping to turn the tables on Prospero, the ever-observant Ariel calls upon the spirits (Aimee Harris; Holly Halford; Carmel Skelly; Rachael Reason; Emily Heeney; Ebony Woods; Taran Harris; Eliza McCart; Neve Francis; Cassie Richardson; Ian Brown; Patrizia Palombella Hart) to provide some enchantment and mystery as this comedic tale unravels love and romance, treachery and revenge, and, in its search for justice, forgiveness.
Under the strong artistic direction of Gaynor La Rocca, all the cast perform well with a notable mention for Simkins who not only acts but dances and sings commendably as Ariel. The costumes by Jane Allen and staging by Hoare were very good, taking full advantage of the setting, whilst the musical composition and direction by Taran Harris and Aimee Maria Harris was excellent with the accompanying choreography by Beverly Norris Edmonds of an equally high standard in what was a great two hours plus of family entertainment.
MATE Productions is a theatre and community arts organisation based in Knowsley, Merseyside, with a reputation for excellence in large-scale community engagement, staging spectacular site-specific and outdoor theatre events and high-quality productions in a wide range of genres. Further details www.mateproductions.co.uk
The company is leading the community engagement programme for the Shakespeare North Trust, the organisation building a commemorative Shakespearian theatre in the heart of Prescot’s historic town centre – www.shakespearenorth.org
The Tempest is touring several Merseyside venues as well as appearing at the RSC, for tickets call 0844 8000410 or book on www.mateproductions.co.uk
Prescot Woodland Theatre: Sun 11th June at 2pm; Saturday 15th July at 2pm and 7pm
St James Gardens, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral: Saturday 24th June at 4pm
Sudley House Gardens, Mossley Hill: Saturday 1st July at 3pm
St Nicholas Church Gardens, Halewood: Sunday 2nd July at 2pm and 7pm
Croxteth Hall Walled Garden: Saturday 8th July at 2pm and 7pm
Ness Gardens, Neston: Saturday 9th July at 6pm
The Dell at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon: Sunday 23rd July at 12pm
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 10th June 2017