Review: A Rather Interesting 'The Tempest' at Taking Flight' Theatre Company

Ed Ramsey

My intentions with a weekend away in Caernarfon, weren't to see a Shakespeare production. Perhaps it was my cynicism, but I just didn't expect to come across the 'Taking Flight' Theatre Company's 'The Tempest', which took us round Doc Fictoria (beautifully natural views) and presented to us their performance of Shakepeare's classic. The wonderful performances from the actors and performers, as well as the frequent heart warming moments, such as when Prospero sang to his daughter during the wedding, or numerous scenes involving the vibrant and illuminating Ariel (I don't believe I've seen a better one), lead me to many ruminations I believe can become a stream, river and sea of dialogue and inspiration- tracing back to a small town in Wales. 

It is I think important to make particular note of the fact that by 'open air', whilst some of us assumed they meant Globe-style stage while we stand around, they really meant they were going to make such a use of space and location that actually gets you fascinated with where you are, a feeling even Shakespeare's original company wouldn't have been able to achieve. This way of performing, which we quickly understood to be street theatre, also managed to get me interested in street theatre, which I had never been before. I now seem to associate it with bravery and talent, rather than amateurism, and have a huge admiration for those in the company who succeeded not only in bringing their characters to life so believably and vividly, but also bringing the setting and play as a whole to life, without the need of grandiose sets and designs. 

Their integration of the performance being a 'tour', whilst at first I thought it would distract from the play itself, was gradually discarded in the neatest way possible- and I will grant that as an opener, this idea worked well in tandem with the location of the performance. It is often very difficult to only perform the play in full in the street, I don't believe I could bring myself to do it- and this mood very easily brought the younger audiences (by which I mean children) into a great and enjoyable atmosphere. 

As somebody who interprets 'The Tempest' as quite a deep and essentially serious play, I did find it bizarre that I genuinely enjoyed the performance, which undertook a notably comical and playful style, occasionally cutting into moments of sincerity (a little disheartening, though to no significant fault). And I must say that in retrospect I understand and appreciate the style and mood they chose, and that I am aware my view of this play in this sense is somewhat subjective. There is after all, no harm in making the play funny, it isn't classed as one of Shakespeare's great 'tragedies' and certainly has many comic moments, which in this performance couldn't have been funnier (the characters of Trinculo and Stephano for instance, play on the common hilarity of drunkenness which Shakespeare's audiences would have loved perhaps even more than we do now). It could be said then that 'The Tempest' is one of those tragi-comedies, which quite possibly acts as a perfect introduction to Shakespeare. It's easy to understand and enjoyable to watch; and this performance was particularly so. 

I might add then, that the audience size was confusingly both saddening and empowering. That is to say that at moments one might have looked around and grieved for the slightly underwhelming audience numbers; but then in the next moment, one might have looked and saw how the actors interacted with and utilised the audience, as well as the reactions of the audience, which suddenly added a grandiosity and greatness to our numbers. I must say, I think this production, whilst of course those readers who aren't anywhere near Wales wouldn't be able to see, is certainly worth discussing and reviewing, since I found it to be rather inspirational. If you do happen to be in the area, I urge you to visit their website! (link below)