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Tiny Tempest
Published on Monday, 06 May 2013

Promotional Image

3 stars

The Warren (venue website)
3-6 May, 6:00pm-7:10pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 World Premiere.
 Warning: Contains flashing lights.
 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

Tiny Tempest is an exuberant children’s show, presented by a versatile, charismatic cast. They tell us the story of The Tempest, using key scenes from Shakespeare’s play, mixed up with songs and some physical theatre. The cast all play multiple roles, and the deft switches made by one actor between Ariel and Caliban were particularly impressive. The musical abilities of the cast were also notable and the show had some neat and clever theatricality.

A second opinion

By Alice de Cent on 5 June 2013

Fresh from its Brighton run, Tiny Tempest hit up the Pleasance, Islington – and at 7:45pm, there’s not a kid to be seen. While undoubtedly a family-friendly show, the exuberance that struck both Mathilda and me is still entertaining for the bunch of grown-ups in the audience (although I admit I did overhear a shocked “OMG, you’re 23! You don’t look that old!” in the foyer).

I shared Mathilda’s preference for the madcap physical scenes and musical pieces over the more straightforward Shakespeare sections, and definitely agree that these were strong enough to tell the story in this way throughout. In a more traditional staging of the play, the quieter moments wouldn’t have stuck out, but here the abrupt changes between two approaches to the story are hard for any audience to navigate.

Whatever the age of the audience, the danger any version of The Tempest is that it slips into a lot of wandering around. The faster-paced scenes and gags steers Tiny Tempest away from this danger, and the cast do a good job of pitching the humour of the clowning scenes. More laughs are found in the actors’ portrayal of multiple roles, which was one of the more impressive aspects of the play. The characters were well-defined with subtle but recognizable costume pieces, giving a real anchor to the storytelling.

Tiny Tempest has bags of energy and charm, and when it’s in full swing its high spirits are infectious. As Shakespeare’s most musical play, this alternative telling is apt and could push further into musical territory. The wordier sections could stand a more musical staging, and the retelling of some of these moments through music could maybe even out the pacing of the play. With development of the musical elements, I would happily set sail with Tiny Tempest again.

The clowning sequences were excellent and very funny. However, not all the physical pieces worked as well. The dance that accompanied the romantic sub-plot felt repetitive and over-long.

And this is part of a wider problem with pace of the show, mostly due to the wordier segments. Shakespeare for kids is a tricky task, and communicating the story needs diligent care. Most adults I know make sure they know the plot of an unfamiliar Shakespeare play before the set out to see it onstage; kids, on the other hand, get bored if they are confused about what’s going on. Here, the parts of the show that were taken directly from the original play didn’t make enough concessions to the age of the show’s target audience.

The soft, measured Prospero, in particular, felt out of place. There was nothing wrong with his performance, except that it seemed to come from a different show and, like other text-based segments, led to a confusing structure and a real drain on the show’s energy.

While the spoken sections were slow, the physical comedy and music were manic, lending the show the uneven feel of a piece that wasn’t sure what it wanted to do. There was a sense that it could throw out the text altogether and just tell the story with songs and romping around. But just when that got going, they’d go back to a straight play, with a jolting gear change.

But still, with its fun clowning and bright tone elsewhere, this show has a lot to recommend it. If it could just lose a little more of the speechifying and get the running time comfortably under an hour, it would be a much tighter, more energetic piece – one which really would come close to presenting a Shakespeare play that young children could feel utterly engaged by.

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