“That’s Caliban!” I said, pointing at a contorted creature covered in leaves curled on top of a cylindrical plinth. Before any confirmation, a tempest breaks out, four of the characters are shipwrecked and we lose them as our attention is drawn to unraveling the complex father-daughter relationship between Prospero and Miranda.
I was wrong. Ariel, the spirit servant of Prospero, unnervingly opens the play as a still and undefinable presence watching over the shipwreck. Caliban appears later, a slave, earthy, grubby and hilariously rude. While confusion and uncertainty may be the nature of Shakespeare’s last and most impenetrable play, Miracle Theatre reveal themselves to be masterful guides through the thematic and moral maze.
And quite frankly I like not knowing. Miracle’s (specifically Bill Scott’s) own subtle adaptation of the original has, in their own words, “shaken and stirred” the original, heightening the humour of the drunken lines between Trinculo and Stephano and establishing Miranda as a saucy maid, delighted to be flirting with “a brave new world.”
The Tempest may be a comment on colonialism, power, authority, magic or feminism or even Shakespeare’s own finale on the stage but what mattered most to me and, I think, the audience at Sterts Theatre, were the characters and the banter. On a balmy summer’s evening, I want picnic, fizz, light entertainment and a little sprinkling of food for thought. And we got it all.
Nothing tops Kneehigh’s Tristan and Isolde at Restormel Castle as one of the most memorable Cornish theatrical experiences of all time for me, but Miracle are getting closer and closer. Live music, beautiful singing and puppetry, costume and trickery are all part of the watery journey that Miracle are inviting you to join this summer.
Miranda is a painfully girlish figure, who throws herself at Ferdinand in lustful gyrating embraces (much to his initial horror) and Ariel is an exquisite mix of the sycophant and a sylph, full of the hope of freedom in contrast to Caliban’s doomed existence (at one point he is cleverly imprisoned in a trunk). Prospero may have lacked the authority and mystique of other Prosperos ahead of him, but his role as Miranda’s father is far more well-defined and his demeanor warm and loving.
The set is simple: a series of blue-green painted cylinders and circles dotted with brown props. Neat little tricks such as the fishing rods that tighten (by the actor’s own hand) and the entrances of the ship-wrecked noblemen, as well as Ferdinand’s brilliant opening scene are immediately engaging. And sit tight for those most memorable lines: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on…” .
Catch them at some of Cornwall’s most stunning summer locations from Bodmin to Falmouth, Lostwithiel to London, Heligan to the Isles of Scilly, most of which are under the stars (weather permitting). For more information and booking, head to miracletheatre.co.uk or call 01209 216 762.