The Tempest

The RSC’s version of the Bard’s classic at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre, 3 March, provideed an explosive first encounter to Shakespeare for children

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Howling winds, the pitter-patter of rain and thunderous claps – Blackpool provided the perfect weather for an evening performance of The Tempest, brought to life by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The production, directed by Aileen Gonsalves, is aimed at 8-13 year olds and is part of the RSC’s First Encounters series, which aims to introduce Shakespeare to young audiences – and what an explosive encounter the company provided. The Tempest combines stories of love, loss and betrayal and takes the audience on a journey through the wilderness, where all is often not what it seems. Creatures loom and fiendish spirits guide the human characters through a turbulent tale of injustice. This performance has something for everyone, making it an ideal candidate for a first date with Shakespeare.

Unlike a traditional theatrical performance, it was opened by the actors providing a brief interactive introduction to the characters and the mysterious island on which events unfold. Members of the audience were encouraged to participate in the proceedings of the plot, providing magic power to Ariel (Sarah Kameela Impey) and Prospero (Darren Raymond).

A simple set gave the bedraggled impression of the inhospitable island where Prospero and Miranda (Elly Condron) have been surviving for the past 12 years. The minimal yet effective use of set meant that imagination played a pivotal role throughout the piece, making a refreshing change to the elaborate designs usually seen in film and television.

The cast, consisting of four males and four females, executed their roles beautifully and gave a new lease of life to each of their lines. Elements of comedy that are already ingrained into Shakespearean works felt refreshed and modern; children were easily able to grasp the use of language and were engaged throughout the majority of the piece.

The performance lasted 90 minutes in total, without an interlude. At points the audience was restless but the immersive qualities of the production managed to pull attention back to the stage. Although the text had been edited to provide a shorter production nothing seemed lost and the play’s most famous lines remained untouched.

The RSC First Encounters productions are not only fantastic educational tools providing a way into Shakespeare, but masterfully performed pieces of theatre that can be appreciated by all.

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The Tempest

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