The Tempest/Huntingdon Hall, Worcester


DRESSED in Doc Holliday frockcoats, the royal party appears as if it’s been shipwrecked on the OK Corral, rather than the beach of Prospero’s mysterious isle.

Caliban hops and crawls about like some ghastly crustacean that’s just emerged from a rock pool, while Trinculo seems to have wandered off the set of Coronation Street after a night on the lash.

And as for Ariel… well, she’s obviously making a guest appearance from her woodland glade home address in Shakespeare’s Arden forest.

All the action for the Bard’s reputedly longest play takes place in a Huntingdon Hall as you have never seen it before… nautical but nice, thanks to Jack Coleman’s fabulously innovative stage design.

Prospero is not the only on working his spells, for director Ben Humphrey has sprinkled plenty of magic along with the shore sand. He’s fielded a very strong Worcester Repertory Company line-up for his latest venture and the result is electrifying.

You’re grabbed right from the start as the ship carrying the king and his entourage comes to grief, with waves of music, shouting, and other seadog types of racket.

It could be a remake of a 1930s swashbuckler movie with Nelson expecting everyone to do their duty.

And they most surely do. Heidi Gowthorpe as Ariel ducks and dives like a hyperactive robin on a bird table, Wilf Williams’ Caliban looks like he lives in a fully operational septic tank, and Jonathan Darby’s Prospero sails into view like a ship of the line with all guns blazing.

The boozed-up scenes with John-Robert Partridge’s Trinculo and Ben Humphrey’s Stephano are an absolute hoot. Playing the drunk is no easy theatrical task but this couple of swells pulls it off with an intoxicating ease.

Meanwhile, Miranda (Hannah Rose) and a besotted Ferdinand (Tom Riddell) canoodle about on the sand, love’s young dream immune to the madness and mayhem all about them.

Ben Humphrey should be congratulated, not just for this production, but also for recognising the future potential of the settings. The Tempest runs until Saturday (September 28).

John Phillpott