The ethereal beauty of Prospero’s deserted island and Ariel’s spritely magical powers make The Tempest a unique exploration of identity and longing. Meg Roe is back to direct this remount of her 2008 production as it moves from the studio stage to the larger main stage. Some of the actors have also returned; most notably Jennifer Lines as Ariel.
Although Prospero (Allan Morgan) is our protagonist, his servant Ariel and her sprites control much of the action with their spells. She creates the tempest that shipwrecks Alonso, King of Naples; Antonio, Duke of Milan; and their entourage. Prospero has asked Ariel to raise the storm in order to seek revenge on his brother, Antonio, who cast him away years earlier. Prospero and his daughter Miranda ended up on the island and managed to survive.
Also on board the ship is the king’s son, Ferdinand (Daniel Doheny), who captures Miranda’s affections. Stephana (Naomi Wright) and Trincula (Luisa Jojic), ladies of the court of Naples also find themselves shipwrecked but make the most of it drinking themselves silly. They provide most of the comedy, especially in the scene where they come across Caliban, Prospero’s slave. Caliban falls in love with Stephana, licking her feet and submitting to her every whim.
The on-stage band provided the perfect musical accompaniment to the action in beautiful chairs made of branches, and I was impressed by the grand set design and the contrasting costumes of the islanders and mariners. I thought that the larger theatre demanded something more to fill the space — perhaps some special effects or larger set pieces would have done the trick.
There was one scene that hinted at this: Ariel descended the steps from the back of the stage with massive outstretched wings. Her presence filled the whole tent, and when Ariel sang her melancholy songs, the whole tent went silent in awe.
The performances of Wright as Stephana and Jojic as Trincula were a huge highlight of the show as they bumbled about the stage, their hair and clothing becoming more and more bedraggled. Prospero was magnanimous in his flowing blue and green robe and had a presence befitting his power, but his performance could have used even more gravity and seriousness.
In the end, Prospero must decide if he will use his powers for good or evil now that he has his enemies under his control on his island, and he must also decide if he will he give Caliban and Ariel their freedom. Take a trip to this magical island to find out the outcome for yourself.
The Tempest runs from June 12 to September 18 at Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park. For more information, visit bardonthebeach.org.