The Tempest, Baxter Theatre Centre, The Courtyard Theatre
THE world of the The Tempest is a particularly intriguing one, not least because the plot was created entirely by the Bard.
This is not based on an existing tale or inspired by history, no, the events which take on a faraway island are drawn entirely by Shakespeare himself. And I suspect that there have been few adaptations which could match this one in colour or enthusiasm.
The Baxter Theatre Centre - who hail from Cape Town - have given the story a colonial slant. Sometimes putting a more modern spin on these tales can feel a bit clumsy, but in this case it works perfectly.
From start to finish the story is steeped with traditional African culture. Trees snake their way through the backdrop and a sun blazes down on the characters. When Prospero (a wonderful Antony Sher) invokes the power of the spirits, they arrive in vivid warpaint and tribal costumes.
Most striking of all is Ariel (played by Atandwa Kani). This force of nature buzzes with energy and casts a striking figure when he first appears in the tangled boughs. A forboding and yet sympathetic performance means that Kani steals every scene he’s in.
But even he has to take second billing to the parade of costumes, puppets and creatures which bring Prospero’s sorcery to life. When the character summons the titular tempest then a great serpent is let loose on the stage. Later in the story a fearsome hag, a giant chameleon and other mysterious creatures put in appearances and they all look stunning.
This production seems adamant that the design and atmosphere have to match Shakespeare’s language blow for blow. It succeeds with aplomb.