Part of the thrill of a Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) production is the discovery of hidden parts of Guildford that you didn’t know existed. Now, I have known of the existence of Stoke Park for a long time. I have even been to other GSC productions here but there is so much more to it! I emerged from a woodland walk to find tonight’s venue in a quiet garden next to the bowling green, where I ate my picnic and enjoyed a drink from the bar.
The opening scene takes place in the garden, where we first meet Caliban (Daniel Krikler), a native of the island who has been forced to serve Prospero as a slave. Daniel scrambles across the set like an animal and contorts his limbs in a strangely grotesque, yet balletic manner. I found this ‘monster’ surprisingly likeable.
A massive storm breaks out and Prospero (Johanne Murdock) explains to her daughter Miranda (Dewi Mutiara Sarginson) that she has brought about the storm with the help of her spirit Ariel (Rosalind Blessed) in order to wreck the ship that carries her sister Antonio (Sarah Gobran). Antonio had usurped her as Duke of Milan and cast her, and her infant daughter, out to sea but she now has the opportunity to exact her revenge. The gender-blind casting felt completely natural: if I hadn’t been familiar with the story, I would not have known that Prospero and Antonio were normally played by men, and I thoroughly enjoyed these parts being played by these fabulous female actors. However, I did struggle to hear some of the dialogue over the noise of the storm, but that is often the case in real life!
The Tempest takes place in one location in one day but the survivors of the storm are scattered across the island. King Alonso (Jim Creighton) presumes that his son Ferdinand (Benjamin Aluwihare) has died in the shipwreck. But Ferdinand is unharmed, but on another part of the island, and he assumes that he is the sole survivor. At this point, the audience was split into three groups (when I arrived at the venue, I was given a sticker to wear, and the audience was divided according to the colour of our stickers). I was in the group of castaways who followed Gonzalo (Matt Pinches) to the beautiful Rose Garden, where we saw Antonio plotting with Alonso’s brother Sebastian (Joseph Rowe) to kill Alonso while he sleeps. Then we moved to other areas of the park to see other parts of the story play out. This huge venue makes it possible to visit the various groups as if they were in different parts of the island. This way of performing The Tempest is not something I have seen before but it really makes the story easy to follow.
All three groups are reunited to see Miranda and Ferdinand declare their love for one another before we return to the initial venue for the interval and second half. The wicked are punished, the enslaved are freed, Prospero renounces her magic, forgives her sister and is restored as Duke of Milan.
An excellent cast, amazing vision by director, Caroline Devlin, and a quite breath-taking venue add up to make this production an absolute must for the summer.
Review by Sally Knipe
“The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”
On a remote island, a mother and daughter watch as a ship is wrecked on the shore; but this is no accident, and this is no ordinary island. As the survivors come to discover, magic does exist and those we think are lost forever are really just waiting to be found.
Shipwrecks, sorcerers and surprises, Shakespeare’s final play is an enthralling voyage of reckoning and redemption.
For our 50th production – yes 50th! – Guildford’s largest and most popular award-winning green space, Stoke Park, will be transformed.
15 – 30 JULY 2022
GSC HQ, Astolat Pavilion, Stoke Park, Lido Road, Guildford
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Caroline Devlin| Designed by Neil Irish | Sound by Matt Eaton