On Friday I saw The Tempest, as a part of the Domnar Warehouse Shakespeare trilogy. I managed to get the tickets through the Young+Free initiative, offering free tickets to under 25s. An absolutely fabulous scheme if I must say…. The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, is set on a mythical island, looking at all the Shakespeare classics; forbidden love; betrayal- usually to do with the monarch; weird monsters; and of course a comedic duo. This version was set in an all female prison.
The Performance began, before we had entered the theatre. The guards brought the prisoners through the lobby of the pop-up Theatre into the auditorium, before ushering the audience, and giving them a brief on proper etiquette in a prison.
At the beginning I was slightly dubious of the interpretation. They set the scene in the prison, describing the characters, and then seemed to go on with the story of The Tempest with nothing changed. However as the play progressed, every moment you were drawn into the mythical world of Shakespeare, the show brought you back to reality. By blaring alarms, bringing guards, or even just simple props from a prison. And they tied it all up perfectly at the end, with a moment of nostalgia and almost sadness for Prospero.
The show was staged in the round, with iron fencing enclosing the audience in. For the storm, they had several prisoners banging on the fencing behind the audience. The storm was a truly immersive experience. You could feel the chairs vibrating underneath you. The sound and music was spectacular. The whole performance was quite immersive, and very spectacular, a feast for the eyes and ears.
The acting was very intense, being so close to the action, had me on the edge of my seat. Jade Anouka, Ariel, was amazing. There was the genius idea to have the spirits rap, which make perfect sense and worked so well, adding a very urban and modern tone to the piece. She played Ariel, so well, as a mischievous, loving and fun spirit. Leah Harvey, Miranda, and Harriet Walter, Prospero were also very good. Prospero who took on the role of the mother, but also in charge, in this female prison.
Finally, it was a very intense performance and I am so happy it exists. Presenting Shakespeare as it should be, in a modern setting, tackling social issues in our today. I’m very glad I got to see it.