It can be said that The Tempest is the least of his plays that bear a “Shakespearean” style. Not only is the dramatic structure very different from what we usually see in Shakespeare’s plays, but the role of women is marginalized to a subordinate, pretty figure. The only female character that appears in The Tempest is Miranda, Prospero’s dutiful daughter who merely serves to fulfill her father’s revenge over his brother Antonio.
The story is very simple. Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda have been stranded for 12 years on a remote island after Prospero’s brother Antonio overthrows and exiles him. For those 12 years, Prospero has been preparing his revenge. The play takes place during three hours on the island at the zenith of the action, culminating in forgiveness instead of revenge.
This is the only play by the great bard that follows the dramatic structure of Aristotle’s three classical unities of time, place, and action, and as such is perfectly suited for outdoor staging. Just the thing for Ottawa’s parks in the summertime!
Bear & Co.’s production takes full advantage of the outdoor space and its atmosphere. It also skillfully incorporates all three major themes in the play: magic, yearning for freedom, and love. The effects that invoke the storm are realistic and, in combination with music, make an eerie atmosphere. Well-chosen songs transport the audience to a different time. Add to all this beautiful, fiery and elegant spirit Ariel and magic is born right there before your eyes. Zoe Georgaras is a perfect fit for the role of Ariel. She is a light dancer, excellent actress, alluring, playful, and mischievous. Her ability to express thoughts and mood just with body language and facial expressions is superb.
Another highlight of the play is surely Hannah Leigh Ehman in the role of Miranda. She gives a lifeless, submissive 16 years old girl a character. Her Miranda is not just a victim of circumstances and her father’s ambitions, but a teenager who has her own mind. That mind may be dictated by hormones, inexperience and naiveté, but she knows what she wants and she definitely goes for it. Ehman’s Miranda is a vulnerable but strong, well behaved daughter of her time, but with all the curiosity and passion of youth, ready to obey but also capable of holding to her own wishes.
Eleanor Crowder’s direction proves to be a good balance of depth, drama, and entertainment. She spices up the show at the right time with a hint of passionate love and hate, combines it with a sense of deep rooted desire for freedom in all creatures alike, and wraps it all up in clownish physical comedy. Her version of The Tempest will bring you in the middle of a magical land where you will have an equally magical time.
The Tempest runs on selected evenings in various parks until July 26.
Shakespeare in the Park
Produced by: The Bear and Company
Directed by: Eleanor Crowder
Musical Director: Rachel Eugster
Doreen Taylor-Claxton – Alonzo/Juno
Chris McLeod – Prospero
Hannah Ehman – Miranda/Gonzalo
Isaac Giles – Ferdinand/Caliban
Zoe Georgaras – Ariel
Alexis Scott – Antonio/Trinculo/Ceres
Sarah Waisvisz – Sebastian/Stephano/Iris