Driftwood Theatre’s Tempest Will Transport You To Shakespeare’s Fantasy World
If you are (like me) a fan of outdoor summer theatre, then make your way to Withrow Park this week to catch Driftwood Theatre‘s production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There’s something great about watching a show outside as the sky gets darker and the air gets cooler. There’s something even more special about it when the show you’re watching takes place on an island, and the outdoor setting makes you feel as if you really have been transported to that setting.
The Tempest tells the story of Prospero (Richard Alan Campbell) and his daughter Miranda (Miriam Fernandes) who have been stranded on a deserted island. Twelve years after their arrival, several of Prospero’s enemies end up on the island, by some combination of fate and magic. I won’t give away the entire plot, but let’s just say that lots of fun Shakespearean things occur, including plotting, spells, plans to kill Kings, a little bit of romance and a little bit of drunkenness.
For those of you who haven’t given Shakespeare a single thought since your High School English class, or those of you who have avoided seeing his shows for fear you won’t understand what’s going on, “be not afeard”. I’ve always believed that if Shakespeare is done well enough then anyone should be able to follow it, and the cast in this production proves that to be true. My friend Carolyn came along with me when I saw the show on Wednesday night, and though she didn’t know anything about the play going in, she was able to stay with it because the actors were so comfortable with the dialogue and so confident in their delivery.
Though the entire cast is strong, I felt the stage light up each time Fernandes and Kaleb Alexander, playing opposite her as Ferdinand, came onstage. Fernandes is exceedingly lovely as Miranda, and Alexander is worthy of each compliment her character gives him. Campbell’s Prospero is spot-on as well, and his strength shines through the entire show, especially in his monologues and moments of observation as he watches and encourages Miranda and Ferdinand’s blossoming love.
The company uses puppets and masks to represent several characters, and many of the actors are doing double and even triple duty throughout. Both Madeleine Donohue (as Trinculo/Ariel) and Peter Van Gestel (as Stephano/Caliban) do an incredible job at keeping their characters unique, genuine and fun. They never falter, even in scenes where they are required to play their respective characters at the same time and end up conversing with themselves.
When I read in the program that Melanie McNeill had designed the costumes with a 1930’s circus act feel, I admit I was sceptical. I’m not always a fan of Shakespeare modernized, or set in a seemingly strange time or place. As soon as I saw the pieces, however, I felt differently, and truly appreciated what had been done with each character’s wardrobe. The costumes enhanced the entire feel of the show.
Shows in parks do have their downfalls – it was a chilly night, and so some of the audience did leave after Intermission. There is almost always someone’s back facing you, and the sets and lighting are – understandably – very simple. The performances, costumes, and use of puppets really make the show what it is, though, and that is a really good production of a really great show with some really lovely dialogue.
So whether you’re Shakespeare’s number one fan or someone who is completely unfamiliar with his work, this production of The Tempest is worth seeing. Grab your coziest blanket or comfiest lawn chair, meet a friend, and treat yourself to a lovely evening of entertainment in the park.
- The Tempest is playing until July 27 at Withrow Park (725 Logan Avenue) and at various other locations across Ontario until August 17
- Shows run Tuesday to Sunday at 7:30PM
- Performances are Pay-What-You-Can (suggested $20 per person); advance tickets can be purchased online or through the box office at 416-703-2773 ext. 201
Photo of Miriam Fernandes and Richard Alan Campbell by Johnny Cann