Hanging around outside on a cold September night can be unpleasant. Hanging around outside on a cold September night without a shirt, covered in blue body paint and reciting a Shakespearean monologue is quite an impressive feat. Fortunately, it is also only one of the Trinity College Dramatic Society’s remarkable achievements in their production of The Tempest — the feature of this year’s installment of Shakespeare in the Quad. Without a doubt, this production (directed by Raven Kaur) lived up to the high standards of one of Trinity’s most cherished traditions.
Despite the usual troubles any outdoor performance has, the TDS were able to make the relatively small squad space The Tempest was performed in, feel as grand as the Globe Theatre. The excellent use of lighting and staging turned an ordinary stairway into the cliff of a mountain, and a group of bushes into a lush jungle.
The Tempest takes place on an enchanted island, where Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, resides with a powerful sorceress and her daughter, Miranda. Making slaves of a spirit named Ariel, and Caliban, the spawn of a powerful witch, Prospero decides to take revenge on his brother, Antonio, who abandoned her and Miranda on the island. By creating a deadly storm, Prospero forces the shipwreck of Alonso, the Queen of Naples, her son Ferdinand, and other court members including Antonio. While stranded on the island, Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love while the others learn about the meaning of allegiance in a thrilling and comedic way.
In any Shakespearean play, being able to hold an audience, even through the longest of soliloquies is the catalyst for a great show. Prospero (played by Liz Laywin) was just that. As the lead character, she was able to take charge of the make-shift stage and leave every audience member trembling in anticipation for her next line. It was unfortunate that such a talented actress was unable to memorize her lines. Throughout the performance, Prospero carried around his “magic-book,” yet towards the final act, it was clear the only magic in her book was her not-so-magic script. Nevertheless, her ability to take on a role so powerful and masculine gave credit to Laywin’s abilities as an actress.
In contrast to the strong and powerful Prospero, Caliban (played by Willa Cowan) embodied the sporadic and angry creature of the island. Willa Cowan’s portrayal of Caliban was incredibly moving as she developed her character to be more than just a distraught and worthless slave. Cowan’s raw emotions rang through during Caliban’s rants — causing the audience to empathizewith a creature who is normally so unidentifiable. In a sense, she brought Caliban down to a level of simple human emotions, expressing pain, anger and depression very effectively.
Minor flaws aside, this year’s Shakespeare in the Quad kept up its tradition of excellence and would certainly make old Trinity proud.
Photos by Stephanie Tran