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1997- The Tempest

For our return to the Festival in 1997 I decided to return to my fave play. This time though, thanks to Sam Bell, Kath Perry and Nick Love at the Brighton Fringe Festival, we had a TENT!!!



The skies cracked open, the lightning flashed and the rain played percussion on the roof of the tent.  Inside though, it was warm and cozy and the intimacy of the venue made for a magical event.  It was to be our last production for the festival. 

We were back in Queen’s Park during the rather warmer month of August but my favorite performance was at the popular Earth Spirit Festival in the woods just outside of Crowborough.  Under the canopy of a huge tree and surrounded on all sides by the audience we performed our last show by the flickering light of buring torches. 






Can it really be true that there is a remote tropical island, swarming with spirits, music and magic in the car park of Brighton station.

Believe it or not there is.  Or rather was.

Re:action Theatre wisely abandoned their outdoor performances this year in favour of a big top in the station car park, as provided by Brighton Fringe Festival.

So though a tempest raged outside, it only added to the enjoyment of The Tempest that flourished inside.

As there should be with Shakespeare in "the park" there was a real sense of fun to the whole production.

Energetic ensemble performances, live music, evocative sets, slide projections, dance, masks, great costumes and a steady supply of food and drink made it a truly enjoyable evening.

Some of the individual performances could have been a little stronger, but generally the cast was excellent, especially the stroppy female Caliban; and though I”m not sure how any Tempest virgins would have fared, those of us who have seen the show many times were offered a refreshing energetic and highly entertaineing rendition.

I”m sure it will be back this summer so keep an eye out.

Impact August.

The storm is coming.

Re:action Theatre have been entertaining Brighton audiences since 1989 with their particular brand of mayhem.  If you didn”t catch their sellout show in the Brighton Fringe Big Top this May then there”s another chance to see "The Tempest" this August at the Royal Spa, Queen”s Park.

The Royal Spa is a Regency folly began at the bequest of the Prince Regent but never finished.  Its mock Greek Columns provide the perfect backdrop for open air theatre and ever since 1988 a motley procession of Brighton actors have been performing Shakespeare to picnicking punters. 

This is theatre at its most laid back and accessible.  People snuggle up under blankets and duvets, corkscrews and Rizla packets circulate amongst the crowd.  Once during a performance of Twelfth Night a fox wandered onto the stage, ignoring the 500 people in the audience and the stunned Malvolio.


On another occasion a previous performance of the Tempest was interrupted for 10 minutes while members of the audience sat on a psychotic passer-by who had shouted insults at the actors and hit out at one of the audience.  The police officers who removed him were treated to an ovation from the crowd before the show continued!

So what of the play itself?  The Tempest is set on a magical island on which Prospero and his daughter Miranda have been stranded for twelve years with the hagseed Caliban and the air spirit Ariel.  The play begins as Prospero’s wicked younger brother and his cohorts- including the King of Naples- are shipwrecked on the island.  Prospero uses his magical powers to confuse the living day lights out of everyone.  On the surface, it’s a comedy but Shakespeare was in a profound mood when he wrote it and in the Tempest things are never quite what they seem.

I asked Robin, Re:action’s artisic director what was different about their version?  Well we’ve got some great performers involved this year and we’ve taken our usual free license in interpreting the play- there’s some unusual casting- I’m not going to tell you what it’s a surprise.  I suppose what’s different about the way we do it is that we’re genuinely into creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in which people who aren’t necessarily into Shakepeare or theatre can find something to enjoy.  We’re not up our own a*** with some clever interpretation.  At the same time we work really hard to make the show as slick as possible.




Date Venue Audience
15th – 16th May Brighton Fringe Festival Big Top 540
17th May Meridian Centre, Peacehaven 38
26th July Newhaven Fort, Newhaven 92
14th – 17th Aug Queens Park, Brighton 1200
24th Aug Earth Spirit 300

Cast and Crew    
Robin Manuell Clare Tilyard Kirstie Maginn
Neil Manuell Craig Vaughan Claire Raftery
Kirstie Martin Jo Wallington Paul Levy
Mike Parker Sam Hewitt Steven Grainger
Penny Howe Nyall Thompson Julia Doorne
Simon Gamewell Graham Clerk Brunhild Rohde
Tanushka Shehadeh Graham Shackell Isabelle Boudaud
Clea Smith Charles Allen Jenny Martin
Penny Wood Cathy Lewis Tamsin Yeald
Jess Owen Clare Gravenell Ruth White
Rob Rawlings Stewart Maple Mike Herbert
Paul Fowler Allen Drumand Mike Hogben
Russ Picardi Kit Oxborough-Giles Joshua Tinker
Amanda Harrison