The Tempest

The Tempest; Lighthouse, Poole

International theatre company Bilimankhwe Arts arrived in Poole last night with an exhilarating new production of Shakespeare’s final play.

 The Tempest has always been magical drama but this powerful and passionate version finds the rhythms of the original text augmented by a original soundtrack which samples traditional Malawian music.

Using stunning contemporary African choreography, it works superbly delivering an exciting, fast-paced production to tell the story of Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, summoning mysterious powers to conjure up a mighty storm and bring those who have plotted against him to the remote island on which he is marooned. Then the fun begins. After all you can’t go very far wrong with a play that’s about a shipwreck and magic. It’s also about settling scores, redressing the balance and  the power of love and forgiveness.

It explores patriarchy, colonialism and power and, with a multi-racial cast, it also challenges attitudes towards race and culture. The production focuses on the fact that Prospero’s slave, Caliban - dismissed as a misshapen beast, a ‘monster’ - is the only true native islander. His homeland colonised by self-entitled foreigners must be returned to him.

Director Kate Stafford uses the strong cast to explore myriad issues. Christopher Brand is excellent as Prospero while Cassandra Hercules is perfect as his daughter Miranda.

Special mention must go too to Stanley Malizani Mambo who infuses Caliban with enough spirit to rise above the torture, pain and misery that goes with slavery.

Prospero’s tame spirit Ariel meanwhile is played with mischievous delight by not one but  two performers - Robert Magasa and Joshua Bhima.

 Shakespeare himself classified The Tempest as a comedy - a fact that baffled me when many years ago I studied it at school. Bilimankhwe  find plenty of humour with Benedict Martin as Stephano and Victoria Jeffrey as Trinculo turning in a wonderfully nuanced knockabout double act aided by a case of wine and an only too happy to be led astray Caliban. 

I was pleased to see so many schoolchildren in the audience as this production is perhaps a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for young theatre-goers

*Bilimankhwe Arts production of The Tempest plays Lighthouse again tonight Wednesday 11th October.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022