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First Encounter - The Tempest - A Student Review

On Thursday 16th March, Stratford Girls Grammar School’s Drama Department arranged a Year 7 trip to The Other Place to watch the RSC’s First Encounter with Shakespeare production of The Tempest.   The adaptation lasted 90 minutes and was aimed at 8–13 year olds, with the objective of introducing children (like myself) to the excitement and buzz of watching live theatre.  The Other Place is a small, compact performance space and the perfect setting for an interactive show, where the actors encourage lots of audience participation.  The intimate space really enhanced the scene when Caliban makes his entrance through the audience.  We were all on the edge of our seats, when we realised that he was actually behind us!

A highlight for me, as an aspiring actor, was when Prospero invited the audience, to act as spirits and help create sounds associated with a storm.   We achieved this by using our bodies to create percussion sounds by jumping and rubbing our hands together.   This was by far, my favourite part in the play, as I loved interacting with the actors and it brought the whole experience alive.  I also loved how the actors, after the performance, came and sat on the stage and answered questions about the play.  This gave us all, an added understanding about the characters and what they were feeling in particular scenes.

This adaptation of The Tempest is very visual and this really helped with my understanding of Shakespeare’s writing.  When Prospero uses Shakespeare’s original language to describe Ariel trapped in a tree, this was brought to life on stage, by wrapping Ariel in material.   Ariel was my favourite character, as the actor playing her, really captured Ariel’s positive energy and she used her voice as an incredible instrument to create a wide variety of sound.  I also really liked the comedy in the play and on many occasions laughed out loud.  I particularly enjoyed watching the two servants who accompany Caliban, interacting and bouncing off each other with lots of enthusiasm and fun.  

The use of music in The Tempest was magnificent, especially the acapela singing.  The music really enhanced the play and the percussion sounds created by the cast were original and effective, bringing to life the feel of an enchanted island.   The actor playing Miranda had a particularly stunning voice.  The cast all complemented each other to deliver an outstanding performance.   We all left the theatre wanting to watch more Shakespeare and will now use this experience in English lessons, as we are currently reading a Shakespeare play of our choice.  

As pupils at an all-girls school, we were really pleased to see that some of the characters, who are traditionally male were played by female actors.   It is great to see strong acting roles for girls and this will help us in our own production of The Tempest.  I very much hope that you will come and watch our Year 7,  abridged version of The Tempest at 11.30 am on Saturday 22nd April outside Stratford Library, Henley Street, as part of Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations.  We are looking forward to bringing the magic of Shakespeare to more young people.


Eleanor Coggins, Year 7