The Tempest is the only play by Shakespeare in which all the action takes place on one day in one place.
The regular venue of Holywell’s Italian Gardens for Eastbourne Operatic and Dramatic Society’s annual outdoor production was, this year, pitch perfect.
On a balmy summer’s evening, with a calm sea mistily dissolving into the horizon and rocks exposed by the ebbing tide forming a stunning backcloth, the setting of the play, a shipwreck on a Mediterranean island in the aftermath of a violent storm, seemed divinely inspired.
Director and producer Gareth Brighton harnessed this magical setting with masterly aplomb to deliver a performance which not only did justice to the surroundings but also to the Bard’s timeless poetry.
Prospero, the keeper of the island, is played by Mike Barber, who took the part at less than two weeks notice, and dominates the action from beginning to end.
He is abetted throughout by his “brave spirit”, Ariel, outstandingly performed by David Fricker (also responsible for technical direction), whose sudden ethereal appearances, and disappearances, together with sweating and cantankerous “abhorred slave”, Caliban, robustly captured by Richard Lock, provide an enchanting sense of the supernatural.
The survivors of the shipwreck, Alonso (Tony Bannister), Antonio (Neil Sellman), Sebastian (Pav Sysiak), and wise counsellor Gonzalo (Bryan Ayres), whose immaculate appearance, despite their trauma, is ensured by Ariel, adds to the sense of wonderment.
This is enhanced when Alonso’s son, Ferdinand (James Collins), falls in love with Prospero’s daughter, Miranda (Zoe Holmes).
Two other survivors, Stephano (James Bell) and Trinculo (Nick Carn), a drunken Laurel and Hardy duo, plot amusingly, but unsuccessfully, to depose Prospero.
With several moments of genuine magic, introduced and rehearsed with ready assistance from acclaimed professional magician, Paul Daniels, this was a memorable, fast-paced performance up there with the very best of EODS summer productions.