Theatre review: The Tempest proves practice can help hone one’s craft

While most teens are spending their summer at the beach or on the couch with the latest release of Call of Duty, a small group of teens are spending theirs at Carousel Theatre’s Teen Shakespeare Program in a production of The Tempest.

Ironically as we caught a preview at the Performance Works outdoor stage on Granville Island Friday night, a real tempest began to brew in what was another potential blow to Vancouver’s summer.  Despite the plummeting temperatures and the wind, this young cast managed inventive and some surprisingly open-hearted performances in this story of triumph of virtue over vengeance.

Performing Shakespeare is tough, even for seasoned professionals; just ask any one of the players on stage at Bard on The Beach.  Practice hones the craft though, and this is evident with those members of this cast who have been part of the program for a number of years.

Seamus Fera, now in his fourth year, brings power to his performance of Prospero and just the right amount of righteous indignation at the return of his brother.  As daughter Miranda, Sara Merner is perfectly matched with Kane Tone as Ferdinand.  Tone is particularly good here (another fourth year veteran) with leading man written all over him and easily makes us believe in such things as love at first sight.

Comic relief comes from the trio of Sofia Newman as Trinculo, Luke Morrison as the monster Caliban and Luke McAndless-Davis as the drunken buffoon Stephano.  This trio was unstoppable, eliciting laughter from the audience at their antics.  It is such a joy to watch actors being fearless and having as much fun as these three.  The trick here though is in knowing when to stop.

The cast of the Carousel Theatre Teen Shakespeare Program production of The Tempest
Members of the cast of the Carousel Theatre Teen Shakespeare Program production of The Tempest

The quartet of Ariels (Sophie Chappell, Aliya Jessa, Shayna Linds and Emma Lindsay) were mesmerizing and were delightful in singing composer Mishelle Cuttler’s original music.  Never breaking character, they took great pains to ensure their ethereal nature are played even when no one is (supposed to be) watching.

The additional cast that includes Ella Dubé, J.S. Gilbert, Scarlett Larry, Sophie McNeilly, Brittany Mrsic, Nikki Read, Darquise Saint Germain and Dexter Van Der Schyff provide much needed support to the featured players. That some of them unflinchingly step into roles of the opposite sex is remarkable. For the newest members of the program we will no doubt see great things in the years to come.

Director Carole Higgins makes great use of the outdoor stage and the surrounding area.  The growling awakening of Caliban just out of sight was a delightful surprise as was the opening scenes of the ship being tossed at sea.  Costume designer Stephanie Kong produces a varied and eclectic mix that is at time whimsical.

As I have noted in the past with performances of Shakespeare by young actors, there is a depth of understanding and believability that comes with age.  Fortunately the young men and women of The Tempest are well on their way.

The Tempest

By William Shakespeare.  Directed by Carole Higgins.  A Carousel Theatre Teen Shakespeare Program presentation.  On stage at the Performance Works Outdoor Stage through August 11, 2012.  Visit http://www.carouseltheatre.ca for tickets and information.

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