by Lynn on January 25, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.  Produced by Theatre Rusticle. Playing until Jan. 28, 2024

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Allyson McMackon

Costumes designed by Lindsay Anne Black (hats), Monica Viani (milliner), Brandon Kleiman, (costumes)

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Music composed by Jill Goranson and Kelsi James

Cast: Brefny Caribou

Jill Goranson

Beck Lloyd

Trinity Lloyd

Annie Tuma

A fascinating, wild-ride of a show, as one expects from Theatre Rusticle.

The Story. The programme offers a succinct outline of the story, which I will pare down even further. The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last play. It takes place on an island inhabited by Prospero (the Duke of Milan) and his daughter Miranda who landed there when Prospero was banished by his jealous brother Antonio. Also on the island are two servants, native to the island, Ariel and Caliban.

Prospero has magic powers and conjured a tempest that wrecked a ship carrying: Alonso, the King of Naples and his brother Sebastian, Prospero’s brother Antonio, a councillor named Gonzalo, Ferdinand, the King’s son and Adrian, Francisco, Stephano and Trinculo.

“The actors will tell you what happens to everyone.” (as per the programme).

There is also a paragraph that says: “The Tempest is also a play that happens here, now, in Buddies on this night, told by five actors traversing all these parts.”

In a sense this paragraph and the one that follows that quote is the exploration the actors and director took in exploring the play. That exploration is for the sacred space known as the ‘rehearsal hall,’ where only actors and creators should be. The audience gets the benefit of the results.

The Production and comment. The stage is bare except for a pattered circle of illumination (bravo Michelle Ramsay for the effective, evocative lighting) in the center of which are coloured objects. The five actors enter and pick up one of the objects—they are ruffs that they will wear around their necks when they change characters.

The five actors come to the front of the stage. They all wear a long dress fitted on top, that flares out for easy movement, sinched at the waist by a wide leather binding. They each introduce themselves and list the many characters they will play. They will all have a chance at playing Prospero, Miranda and Ariel. For example, Brefny Caribou is a commanding and at times, impish Prospero; Annie Tuma is a vivid, energetic Miranda; Beck Lloyd is a more serious Prospero.

When an actor is not on stage, they sit in chairs at the side of the playing space. Other props are at the sides and back as well for easy access.

Director Allyson McMackon has envisioned a spare but lively production, full of movement, provocative costumes, head gear and simple additions to establish characters: (bravo Lindsay Anne Black for the hats, Monica Viani for the millinery and Brandon Kleiman for the costumes).

Prospero always wears a flowing cape; Ariel wears a blue ‘fascinator’ with a ship affixed to the top of it; Caliban has a chain linked around the waist—that’s inspired since Caliban is treated as a captive slave. But sometimes a character also had a chain around the waist (Ferdinand), and that clouds the clarity of what character we are looking at. The other courtiers wear ruffs around their necks; the King of Naples wears a crown. Characters are always changing head-gear or other signifiers for a character. And often an actor will put the Prospero cape on another actor who is playing him. Another actor will put the chain around the waist of the actor playing Caliban. This communal activity adds  cohesion to the production.

At times four actors stand upstage wearing the blue head-gear for Ariel and give the lines at the same time.  It works if all four actors are in unison, but it gets fuzzy if they are not and that happens more often than not.

Shakespeare of course is open to all sorts of interpretations and ways of performing his plays. That’s one of the many reasons they have been done regularly for more than 400 years. The language is particular (and subject to change) and the poetry-meter of it is specific. Some actors have a facility with the language/meter others less so. All the actors in this production of The Tempest have the opportunity to try and flex their acting muscles on this challenging playwright.

I’m glad of the chance to see Allyson McMackon’s latest production and ponder all sorts of questions about language, poetry, meter, interpretation and a whole lot of other stuff that will pop up when I least expect it.

Theatre Rusticle presents:

Opened: Jan. 19, 2024

I saw it: Jan. 24, 2024.

Closes: Jan. 28.

Running time: 2 hours. 45 minutes (1 intermission)

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