It was advertised as ‘First Encounters With Shakespeare For Younger Audiences’ so I suppose the clue was in the title, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer quantity of school children thronging the foyer at Blackpool Grand Theatre. I was surprised by how young some of them appeared and half expected to be sat amongst a very noisy audience. I could not have been more wrong. The children, hundreds of them, weren’t just well behaved because their teachers were watching them, they were completely enraptured by the performance and quiet as the proverbial mice. If only the same could be said for some of the adults behind me, who seemed to accompany the action with mutterings and extremely loud rustling of sweet wrappers, yes there was meant to be audience participation, but not of that kind.
After an introduction to the play, the children were invited to participate in the performance which they, and quite a few adults did, with gusto. This included hand rubbing, whooshing and the loud stamping of feet in tune with the various weather conditions. At one stage, as the stamping reached a crescendo, I began to fear that the circle may end up in the stalls, but I needn’t have worried, the only thing that broke was the handrail on the side stairs which collapsed just as Caliban was running up them. Of course, this just created amusement for the audience.
I often feel saddened that I only began to appreciate the genius of William Shakespeare when I was well into adulthood, but I blame that on how his work was presented in school. This production could not have been further from the way in which I first perceived Shakespeare. From the looks on the faces of the children around me, I would say that this production instilled a life-long love of The Bard.
A massive well done to the RSC for this fantastic interpretation of The Tempest.
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