Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SRT's Shakespeare in the Park 2015: "The Tempest" Raises A Moderate Squall

It rained a couple of hours before showtime when Red Dot Diva attended SRT's Shakespeare in the Park last year (the play was The Merchant of Venice). As fate has it, the weather did a repeat performance again on this year's Labour Day show for "The Tempest".

(Click here to read a previous article on SRT's "The Tempest".)

The dark clouds refused to disperse even after the gates opened at about 6:40PM. As the streaming crowd settled their mats on the lawn, it continued to drizzle. At one point, the rain got heavier, and umbrellas began popping up around the field like colourful mushrooms. Yet, the crowd, hopefuly and undeterred huddling beneath their shade or ponchos, was hopeful that the show will go on.

And it did. It was a sold-out performance that night, and SRT was determined to have the show go on. Luckily, after a short prayer to the weather angels, the rain showed signs of subsiding, with the sky even offering a rainbow tribute. The open-air stage was then promptly wiped and mopped up to get ready for the performance.

Looming above the grounds was purportedly, the tallest set ever built on a local stage. It was made to look like a page from a magician's spellbook, and was marked with symbols and strange notations. Then, with a creative use of dance, movements of tapestry and stage lighting, "The Tempest" began with the titular storm conjured by the main character, Prospero - the exiled Duke of Milan.

With his long silvery hair, colourful cape and staff, British stage actor Simon Robson cuts an impressive figure on stage as Prospero. Red Dot Diva fell in love with his voice as he enunciates his lines with such confidence and ease that only a veteran actor could. It was difficult not to place your focus on him whenever he took centrestage as loving father, benevolent master, weary exile or a vengeful ex-Duke.

Key to the supernatural events within the story was Prospero's servant, the sprite Ariel, played by the petite actress Ann Lek. Ann has a beautiful singing voice, and the director Braham Murray was wise to put that into good use. Although, Red Dot Diva thought her non-singing performance as the "spirit of the air" could have been more bubbly, more petulant. She didn't think the semi-awkward skipping on and off stage put across Ariel's character effectively.

When it came to the magical aspects of the play, the deliberate Asian influences seemed to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, when Ariel spread his wings and revealed his power to the men who plotted against Prospero, the imagery was simply stunning. And then, in some other parts, the mysterious elements - embodied by creepy, red-haired, kabuki-like ghostly creatures in long-sleeved gowns - seemed a little out of place. 

It is a pity that the star-crossed pair Miranda (Julia Wee) and Ferdinand (Timothy Wan) lacked that convincing sense of googley-eyed, head-over-heels kind of love. In contrast, Caliban (Theo Ogundipe), the deformed slave and son of the malevolent witch Sycorax, was a muscular rumbling presence on stage.

Red Dot Diva's favourite parts of the play were the ones featuring the drunken duo Trinculo and Stephano, acted by Shane Mardjuki & Daniel Jenkins respectively. Their comedic timing and chemistry was ace. They were the bright sparks in a mostly staid play, and she laughed so much at that iconic scene involving the discover of the strange four-legged beast.

On a whole, Red Dot Diva still found "The Tempest" to be moderately enjoyable, and the nearly 3-hour adaptation of Shakespeare's last play was not at all tedious to sit through. The large set piece may not have been as dynamic as previous SRT's Shakespeare in the Park productions, but in a way, the lack of bells and whistles helped to highlight the actual performance itself - which was adequate, well-paced and aesthetically pleasing, but could have been a lot more magical.


Red Dot Diva thanks SRT for the invite to the Preview Show on 1 May, 2015.

"The Tempest"  is still being performed at the Fort Canning Park till 24 May. Tickets can be purchased at SISTIC.

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