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The Tempest - A Musical Enchantment
Published on Friday, 28 August 2009

Edinburgh feels like a different world in August; if it’s not actors wandering down North Bridge like displaced minstrels, it’s the casts of innumerable shows hawking their wares on the Royal Mile that leaves you feeling as if you’ve just stepped into Bedlam. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to pass a man smearing himself with mud as I walked through The Edinburgh College of Art. But no, nobody had escaped the madhouse - I was just passing Caliban, a character from The Tempest.

The Tempest – A Musical Enchantment does what it says on the tin; it’s predominantly a musical. Condensing Shakespeare’s script, it adds a large portion of music and song and a dash of dance to the original - creating a sweet, though slightly uneven, show.

One of the things contributing to this unevenness was the use of head-set microphones. With any possible voice-projection issues taken care of, some of the actors rushed through the language, sacrificing meaning. As a notable exception, Adam Schofield-Bodt (Ferdinand) took his time to good effect, but overall the dialogue was disappointing.

Still, as the show is predominantly a musical, that didn't prevent it being pleasing. Stephano (Matthew Bagley) and Trinculo (Andrew Hendrick) prove a good comedy duo with some amusing physical routines, and Caliban (played by Sean Zackrison) with his fervour and devotion to his new masters is enjoyable too. The addition of song to the play works well; the more memorable numbers are those that are very obvious about what they are saying. ‘King Stephano’ and the ‘Man and Fish’ operatic ditty were highlights - both Bagley and Hendrick have voices that complement each other nicely.

The numbers which involved the Supremes-like trio (sans Diana Ross) draped in silver were memorable too; they added a touch of gaudy glamour to the song about Miranda and the nuptial celebrations. There’s something fun about having backing singers, though more could be made of both the singers and the dancers to make these songs into more choreographed numbers. Overall, there's some nice ambient music and special effects.

But what's really great to see is a show that includes (at my count) 20 cast members on stage. It’s quite rare to have such a full cast at the Fringe and they fill the stage with energy and colour, particularly in the opening, closing and wedding scenes. A good show for all ages.

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