Hammerpuzzle breaks a text down, exploring it, finding actors’ personal connections and recreating the play. With The Tempest these performers only occasionally use their own language to move things along or make matters clear and this is a relief, as their paraphrases can miss the specifics of Shakespeare’s lines and thoughts.
The cast are talented singers and use instruments well, here mainly using a drum and a guitar, the latter put to somewhat amusing use in one of the scenes, and these, along with their voices, punctuate and support the action. Sometimes a song is overly long or sounds are slightly too repetitious, and harmony was not achieved in one song, but overall this musical accompaniment is a strong point for the company.
The performers also have fine vital energy and clear story-telling skills, needing minimal props to go with their travelling player costumes of cloaks, plain wide shirts, red-belted, and brown trousers. A few accessories take care of multi-role playing and the actors’ physicality does the rest well. Caliban’s movements work, but – in any character – this actor’s voice needs modulation, the projection being beyond that needed for their performance spaces (Hammerpuzzle also present their version of Measure for Measure as part of PBH’s Free Fringe at Princes Mall) and there is little to no subtlety and variation. The actress playing Prospero is capable of better performances, here neglecting rooted physicality and thought, plus genuine feeling, for a focus on what is perhaps meant to be an older voice that demonstrates status, but which actually hampers true expression.
The actor playing Stephano and Alonso shows variation and understanding, Ariel has moments of charm and a decent voice, Sebastian / Trinculo shows skill with voice, comedy and the playing of differing parts and she and the delightful Miranda are in fine singing voice. Miranda / Gonzalo (the text adaptor as well) also has a depth to her acting, and Ferdinand / Antonio shows how voice and body work well together, with both strong technique and genuine feeling. There is also a section where the playing of different parts is used for comedy purposes which went down well with the audience.
Director and performers link their own travelling / wondering-about-settling lives to The Tempest, and add a song reflecting this at the end, with strained connections to the play that are strangely, and somewhat self-indulgently, worded. However, their energy and skills in story-telling, choral song and comedy, with some fine performances, make this a Tempest that is, for the most part, an entertaining one on which to be tossed.
15 – 27 August, 15:20 (16:20) @ Gryphon Venues @ the Point Hotel