With its aerial circus elements and dark atmosphere, Backhand Theatre’s adaptation of The Tempest soars above many of the Shakespeare performances on the Fringe in a magical and engrossing production.
In the haze-filled space of Studio C at C eca, Prospero stands aloof, watching as the storm claims the King of Naples’ ship. This is a beautifully-realised opening, as two of the performers twist and turn gracefully on ropes supsended from the ceiling, swimming in midair as lightning flashes and thunder booms. And again, at key points during this abridged version of the play, the action takes place above the audience’s heads: on metal rigging, ropes and – in a bewitching sequence where Miranda and Ferdinand express their love for each other – on a trapeze.
As well as proving themselves capable of some impressive physicality, the cast deliver strong performances, capturing the magical essence of Shakespeare’s original. The simple costumes and well-designed sound and lighting complement the action well, creating a piece which is constantly watchable, even when the performance takes place with its feet on the ground.
With its hour running length, some characters and themes of the original are understandably sacrificed, most notably with the all-too brief appearance of a striking puppet Caliban. However, there is enough skill and artistry on display here to ensure The Tempest still feels satisfyingly complete; and with its aerial magic, it has a dreamlike quality which really is the stuff dreams are made on.
The Tempest runs until Aug 29 at C eca at 17:50. More details here.