Arts Threshold, London W2
Opened 20 November, 1992

Cross-casting is one thing, but think carefully before changing the gender of a character. A female Trinculo ("a whore") seems out of place amid the wreck of an Italian royal marriage-party (even one clad inexplicably in kilts), and Julie Hesmondhalgh's genuinely comic Stephano (although mistaken for a man by Caliban) is by the mere fact of her sex robbed of almost all motivation for wanting to take over the isle just a "Monster, I will kill all these women." All, because Prospero's now the exiled Duchess of Milan, leading to a linguistic and dynastic muddle which the company hope we won't stop to ponder.

Against this, Helena Lymbery's Prospero injects an element of vexed maternalism into her relationship with her (semi-feral) daughter, and her performance is so considered a deliberately unstable mix of world-weariness and jungle fever that she generally overrides the gender potholes, and indeed runs the ESC's John Woodvine (see separate review) pretty close.

The nature of Arts Threshold's enterprise dictates an inexpensive but remarkably resourceful production: some knotted undergrowth, a Steve Reichian polyrhythmic percussive score played on the set, a Caliban maimed and deformed by a set of thongs and Ariel confirming that 1992 has been the theatrical year of the trapeze. More entertaining and coherent of vision than Bogdanov. So there.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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