The opening night to Hart House Theatre’s production of The Tempest started with a bang. An appropriate beginning for one of Shakespeare’s most stimulating plays, the Hart House production was a storm of flashing lights and booming noise. At moments reminiscent of a rave, the elaborate designs and extravagant sounds sent a surge of electricity running throughout the theatre.   

The Tempest starts out in the middle of a sea-storm while the protagonist Prospero’s brother Antonio’s ship is nearing the island in which Prospero and his daughter Miranda have been stranded. Production director Jeremy Hutton, clearly not one to shy away from the technical side of a performance, arranged for a grandiose opening scene of loud crashes and flashing lights.

 As the play carried on, the audience was introduced to the play’s lead, the vengeful wizard Prospero (Peter Higginson), and Miranda (Katherine Fogler), before the play breaks off into its three separate plot lines. In one, Miranda and Ferdinand (Andrei Preda) fall in love. In another, the spirit Ariel (Amaka Umeh) thwarts a murder plot between the stranded nobels. In the third, Stephano (Paolo Santalucia), Trinculo (Cameron Laurie), and Caliban (William Foley) ham it up as drunkards planning a rebellion against Prospero. 

All three plot lines are equally enticing, with the comedic characters Stephano and Trinculo proving to be exceptionally hilarious. Santalucia and Laurie put on a wonderful performance as slapstick winos — they encounter Caliban, Prospero’s slave, who is convinced they have come from the moon. From that point of introduction, an array of outlandish jokes and phallic humour ensues. 

The acting throughout this play was superb, although leading man, Higginson, sometimes fell short. Generally presenting a good rendition of the brooding wizard, I couldn’t help but feel that Prospero, who is known to be vengeful and menacing, was a bit too much of a softie.

 The dialogue was often delivered with a soothing, wise old-man voice, when it should have been delivered with vigor and a hint of wrath. Unfortunately, stomping his staff against the ground every thirty-seconds just didn’t cut it. 

All-in-all, The Tempest was an exceptionally entertaining piece of theatre. For a performance that lasts a whopping two hours and forty minutes, the play managed to maintain the audiences attention throughout, and that is something that’s worth applauding.