I realised I was about to a experience a rather unusual performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest when the first thing I noticed on stage was a washing machine! I should have known that the production would have a few little surprises because Northern Stage has a reputation for breathing new life into classic texts.
I’ve been to Northern Stage a couple of times, it can be found next to the University of Newcastle and is a jewel in the crown of Newcastle’s thriving theatre scene. This was the first time I’d seen a Shakespeare play since I was at school though (a LONG time ago!) I actually read The Tempest for GCSE but I mustn’t have been very studious as I couldn’t even remember the plot!
It all came flooding back to me when some ‘Ariel’ powder was put in to the washing machine, the ensuing turbulence was cleverly used to represent the dramatic shipwreck scene at the start of the story and before I knew it I was transported to the Island and re-introduced to the fantastical characters of Prospero, his daughter Miranda, their monster slave Caliban and mischief maker Ariel.
Before long, an influx of shipwrecked sailors appeared including Ferdinand, the prince of Naples, his father Alonso the King and Antonio, Prospero’s younger brother who had been masquerading as the Duke of Milan since he sent Prospero (the rightful Duke) out on a boat to die… keeping up?
I recognised the actor playing Antonio as soon as I heard his Geordie accent, Gary Kitching is a much loved regular at Northern Stage and an occasional contributor to local improv group The Suggestibles.
Each cast member delivered a wonderful performance as the story was played out on a stage strewn with laundry. Huge piles of clothing became the island’s caves and washing lines filled with shirts were raised above the stage to represent the clouds, it was all very inventive!
Even the music was incredibly creative, Brendan Murphy is a percussionist from Whitley Bay and he had me transfixed with his array of unusual instruments which he played live from the side of the stage, including a collection of glasses filled with water, he made them sound beautiful!
Trinculo and Stephano stole the show for me though, their double act as the court jester and the butler was full of humour and their light hearted scenes had me chuckling in my seat. I also noticed the lady sat in front of me laughing along and it turned out to be none other than soap star royalty Charlie Hardwick who played Val in Emmerdale!
The Tempest is on at Northern Stage till 10th October and is just the start of the eclectic Atumn/Winter programme, I’m hoping to return in November to see Blood Brothers.
www.northernstage.co.uk 0191 230 5151