It is with tears in my eyes that I set upon writing this review, for The Tempest at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington was such a wonder and joy to behold that I am still moved now.
What a sweet, unassuming place the Little Angel Theatre is, hidden in a little court off Cross street it would be impossible to just walk past it and notice it unless already on your way there to see something. Tipped by a friend, we managed to catch the last night of this sold out production of The Tempest and I am so glad. A mixture of puppets and people, this child friendly production was superbly acted and never patronising. All the actors not only perform multiple roles impeccably, with an ease that leaves the audience not quite sure just how many actors are in the play and a transport that makes their throats knot and noses tingle; they also double up as master puppeteers, dancers and excellent singers and musicians, playing a variety of instruments.
Gross Caliban is here a clunky, 2-people puppet that is utterly frightful when enraged and sweet when in a more delicate, vulnerable attitude. The other main puppet, the floaty Ariel, is fine and subtly animated and its interaction with Prospero is one of the most moving elements of the play.
As well as deeply moving, this production is terribly funny at different levels, sweet in the father and daughter moments between Miranda and Prospero, exhilarating when Trinculo and Stephano are on stage, and unpredictable when the actors leave the stage and interact with the public. Even the seagull puppets are riveting!
Finally, the lighting and sound effects were seamless and essential to the atmosphere, particularly fine were the shadow play, and choral and orchestral moments that seal the union of Miranda and Ferdinand; as well as the particularly suggestive opening, which sees Prospero light up the tempest with his staff as if with a giant match.
It's sad not to be able to tell you to go and watch it as alas! it is no more. But as a huge part of the charm came from the theatre itself, so intimate and special, and the puppets, which when well made like in the Little Angel Theatre, are twenty times as magical to behold as any computer generated thestral, I feel confident that you'll be just as ecstatic as we were tonight to see any of their future adult productions. Alternatively, you if you have any young friends between 3 and 6, you might seize the opportunity and catch the forthcoming production 'The Magician's Daughter', running from the 28th of May to the 10th of July.
After going to the Little Angel Theatre once, I am sure you'll also want to take one of their adult puppet making courses, so I guess we'll see you there!
-- Faye Fornasier