Home Theatre REVIEW: The Tempestuous (Basement Theatre)

REVIEW: The Tempestuous (Basement Theatre)

REVIEW: The Tempestuous (Basement Theatre)


Images by Kate Little

[Promising Pastiche]

Award-winning comic Penny Ashton has as soon as once more delved into basic texts to current their tropes in a brand new gentle. A mash-up of Shakespeare’s performs and modern-day actuality TV, The Tempestuous is a humorous and intelligent romp. Replete with cross-dressing, disguises, bawdy jokes, puns, wordplay, and musical numbers, it’s an excellently written script that Shakespeare himself could be pleased with.

Ashton enters the stage in a phenomenal Elizabethan robe (impeccably designed by Elizabeth Whiting) and begins to set the scene in rhyming couplets and Shakespearean verbiage. We’re in Italy (certainly one of Shakespeare’s favorite settings). The king is lifeless, his brother has changed him on the throne, and his lovely daughter should be married off. Ashton proceeds, over the subsequent hour and a half, to weave for us a narrative of strong-willed ladies and weak-witted males. And witches, after all.

Shakespeare wrote some epic feminine characters in his time (though they have been carried out by male performers), and Ashton updates this feminist bent with barely extra fashionable sensibilities. Shakespearean comedies farcically overturn the established order earlier than restoring it within the conclusion; right here the pure order restored is certainly one of female empowerment and real love.

There’s no should be intimidated by way of Shakespeare’s language for Ashton is clearly a grasp of it. She cleverly weaves fashionable phrases into the model of Elizabethan speech with exact comedian timing, and hides strains ripped straight from Shakespeare all through this new textual content. Each line is evident and every character is distinct – which is saying one thing, contemplating Ashton brings to life a minimum of 13 over the course of the story. 

The Tempestuous supplies the expertise of seeing a Shakespeare for the primary time, although carried out solo. This provides a enjoyable gimmick and Ashton’s unbelievable efficiency makes the quick modifications in character (via voice, physique and area alone) look simple, however I virtually wished to really feel how laborious it actually should have been. Not solely was Ashton taking part in a number of characters in dialogue with each other, however then a few of these characters don disguises and are taking part in components of their very own. That is such a beautiful farce that may have been even funnier if we had been made viscerally conscious of simply how absurd it’s. There was one lovely second when Ashton entered the stage, solely to understand she was utilizing the unsuitable voice, so she was pressured to show round and enter once more. It was moments like these – the real errors – that made me actually chortle as a result of it highlighted the utter silliness of all of it.

It was partly this sense of meta-theatricality that was missing for me. Not that there was a lot of a fourth wall to talk of, however certainly one of Shakespeare’s best tropes was poking enjoyable at theatre itself. A solo Shakespearean romp comparable to this might have been the proper place to usher in that sense of self-awareness, permitting the slickness of efficiency to drop away so we might see the farce of 1 actor taking part in 13 characters. The moments the place Ashton was pressured to authentically reply to a mistake or to the viewers gave me a pleasant glimpse of what this may need appeared like, and I wished extra.

Although the present is in nice form for its first ever run, general I wished extra. Extra props, extra costumes, extra fanfare, extra parody, extra use of the small set. The instances once we received huge bodily gags from Ashton have been a number of the greatest, however only some have been peppered all through. Among the musical numbers (although very entertaining and fantastically carried out) felt like they wished to be larger, grander. To conjure the epic-ness of such archetypal characters and tales isn’t any small feat, and I felt that The Tempestuous fell just a bit quick. I might like to see extra parts added and an actual heavy lean into the farce because the play continues to develop.

Nonetheless, Penny Ashton’s newest providing is a humorous and sensible homage to maybe essentially the most well-known Western playwright. Should you love Shakespeare, or simply wish to see the Bard in a brand new gentle, that is the present for you.

The Tempestuous performs Basement Theatre 13-Seventeenth June 2023



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