Cork Midsummer Festival: Mary Leland reviews The Tempest in Fitzgerald's Park and Flying Words at the Spiegeltent in Emmet Place.
Fitzgerald's Park, Cork
This is one of Shakespeare's shorter plays, and as adapted by Jocelyn Clarke's light hand, provides this Corcadorca production with the opportunity to transform a municipal park into a magical, spirit-ridden island. The opportunity is grasped with relish.
The man-made pond in the park now seems a natural feature to which tree-trunks and mossy tracks have been added; reeds pierce the lily-beds; the tiered fountain glows ivory and bronze as Prospero and Caliban, Miranda and Ferdinand appear on its extended plinth; the blue fire-flies of Ariel's spirits flicker amidst the shrubbery, and in the dark the great trees hover like clouds in the starless sky.
Planking under the water gives it a mirror-like solidity, so that the action - which begins after dark - is reflected as if in shimmering mirage. Designer Roma Patel's embellishments are also strategic, with some playing areas mast-high, others cavernous, others again very wet; her attention to detail, as in the mitred edges of banners for the masque or in the midsummer sweetness of the croquet-lawn constantly rewarding the captivated audience.
The Tempest is a complex play, possibly the last Shakespeare ever wrote; often comic but thematically consistent in its study of power, loyalty, revenge and redemption. Treasonably banished but now restored as Duke of Milan, Prospero's "revels" may be ended, but the question is whether the utopia visualised by the repentant courtier Gonzalo will ever be achieved. Combining magic, music and mystery in an elegiac exploration, to appreciate The Tempest, the transformation has to be more than visual.
Director Pat Kiernan never loses the plot in the impact of the site-specific spectacle he conjures from his locations, but in any attempt to recreate something of the Shakespearean imagination, the first consideration has to be the language through which that imagination is offered. Verse is not prose, and its implied rhythms should support style, rather than being supplanted by it. Yet the large cast, led by the sturdy Prospero of Enda Oates, works diligently against a background always threatening to upstage them.
Costumed by Joan Hickson, lit by Paul Denby, accompanied by the music of Linda Buckley and moving to the choreography of Jools Gilson-Ellis, the players survive the threat; the only failure is that of the first magic, the first music of the words themselves.
• Runs until July 1st at 10.15pm
Spiegeltent, Emmet Place
The poetry of sign language is elusive to a hearing audience, but hearing and deaf find entertainment and engagement in Flying Words, the performance poetry devised by writer Peter Cook and his "speaking voice" Kenny Lerner. The enjoyment these artists get from working together is infectious and because American sign language varies from Irish usage, even local interpreter Deirdre Herlihy became part of the show.
Lerner's soft-textured voice gave weight to Cook's expressive fingers and hands; often brief and pithy, the work was extended to include other poets, such as Pablo Neruda, and involved the audience in the pair's determination to explain the origin of the universe - or half of it at least - so that a mass five-part mime rocked the tent and banished the frantic noise of the city outside.
• The Spiegeltent is on Emmet Place. Contact www.corkfestival.com or (1890-200555)