I will happily admit that going to the Theater is not a thing I do, I just don’t, not many folk do, with the advent of moving pictures. going out to the theater for an evening’s entertainment really stopped being a thing for a lot of people, myself included. So, when I got an invitation to watch The Tempest performed by the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, I decided why not, but wasn’t too sure what to expect.
Now I have had the benefit of an English Education, (back when they cared to make it an education), Shakespeare was approached as one of those things you just had to get through, to you know, get summer break. Mainly because it was presented in a dry way, and that might be part of the problem to enjoying this long admired Bard’s work, but I will get to that in a moment.
My journey into Shakespeare, wasn’t one of self-discovery, but was exposure to the series of Kenneth Branagh movies, mainly being Henry V, Love Labour’s Lost, and Much Ado About Nothing, and while I enjoyed the word play, I didn’t search out any means to see anymore. I know shocking, eh? But, let’s be fair, while the Bard has that pedestal of being the most well know playwright in the world, it has the baggage, (thanks to hours of listless education,) of being a bit boring.
With all that being said… I found myself on opening night stepping in the Great Hall at St. Mary’s in Hampden, Baltimore, home of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) to experience Shakespeare Live, in the way the Bard expected his plays to shown. I didn’t quite know what to expect… Would it be stuffy? Would it be pompous and overblown? Would it more importantly entertain…
BSF put on a production of The Tempest, one of the shortest plays in Shakespeare works, and perhaps one of the accessible tales he told. The basic plot is the Sorcerer Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan who is exiled to a remote island, through magic, illusion and the assistant of his enslaved Spirit Ariel, shipwreck his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples; in a plot to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. After many machinations and skillful manipulations, unexpected love, redemption and forgiveness is found.
So what was my thoughts? Being this was my first journey into Shakespeare with Live Theater? Well, I have to say I greatly enjoyed the play, BSF performs in an open stage manner, making use of the entire performance area, and brought a great deal of audience participation into the play, and some contemporary music (while a couple of songs were kinda groan inducing in a joyful sort of way), made the play extremely accessible and enjoyable.
While, I am a poor reviewer, I misplaced my playbook and do not retain the names of the players, and I can only give a layman’s point of view, I enjoyed all the performances, especially that of the Actor who played Ariel – Sian Edwards. Who in this humble amateur’s opinion gave the strongest, charismatic performance of the night, with an interpretation of the spirit that gave an unearthly feel – whenever she appeared on stage, all eyes were drawn to her often wordless actions.
This doesn’t do a disservice to the other players, who to again. my humble opinion were all amazing and brought this play to life, especially the actor (apologies for not listing the actor’s name – but in my defense I sometimes struggle remember my kids) who played the dual role of Ferdinand and Caliban, Together this troop, suspended disbelief and pulled the audience into this world.
I think we can call The Tempest, a starter, and entry point into the world Shakespeare for me, and it was played well, entrancing and leaving me wanting to see more of this Bard’s works. And I highly recommend to you all to take the time to see this work while it is still playing.
The Tempest runs to February 4 For full showtimes and ticket prices visit the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.