The Reading University Drama Society’s recent production of The Tempest was a great success, masterfully crafted and perfectly cast. Set in the round so the audience was inches away from the performance at all times, the cast utilised the space intelligently. Frequent moments saw the action seep into the aisles and put the audience the edge of their seats. Audience involvement was one of many well thought out artistic flourishes from the brilliant director, Josh Oliver, and his equally talented assistant, Emily Marshall.
The Tempest was cut to a decent length and most important scenes were included. For the most part the cuts did nothing to impact the story telling and Shakespeare’s tale was told, albeit by idiots, with fluidity. Somewhere in the middle of act II I lost the plot, despite knowing the play fairly well, but the abridged version quickly found its feet again in time for the conclusion.
The performance was fronted by Hywel Williams, who took on the iconic role with confidence. He commanded excellent stage presence and spoke with authority and passion. Williams had great chemistry with his onstage daughter, Miranda, played by Juliana Süß. But no chemistry could match that of the central two young lovers (Süß and Chris Fletcher). Despite a disturbingly high number of references to her ‘virgin knot’ there were real romantic sparks between the pair. The two talented young actors worked exceptionally well together and you almost thought they were really in love. The fourth principle character was Ariel, played by Coral Richards, who has to get the award for best-dressed; the trousers, rocking a galaxy print, were certainly eye catching. But being the formidable actress she is, Richards shone even brighter and enchanted characters and audience alike.
Henry Rayment-Pickard gave a devilish portrayal of Caliban. Certainly channelling some Heath Ledger Joker, Rayment-Pickard was simultaneously hilarious and disgusting. The poor audience members he mounted each night might never recover. The stand out performances from the supporting cast, however, has to be that of Tess Agus and Josh Clarke who played the double act Stephano and Trinculo. The duo was a match made in heaven. During sections of dense dialogue and when high drama started to slow the piece, Agus and Clarke came in and picked up the momentum. Their comic timing in delivering 400-year-old jokes was second to none – take note Brucie, this is how to make old material fresh! The pair was a definite highlight of a brilliant show.
Overall The Tempest was a roaring success. Josh Oliver’s calm and collected style pulled together a performance that left audiences lifted; there was nothing amateur about this piece. Producers Yasmin Zeitoun and Megan Turner said “We are so proud of everyone in the cast – they’re some of the most talented, hardworking people we’ve worked with. They’ve kept up RUDS’ strong reputation”. A piece like this needs a strong production team, which was run by Zeitoun and Turner with professional efficiency.
Congratulations to the all cast and crew of The Tempest on an excellent show.