The last production of The Tempest I saw was in the West End, starred Ralph Fiennes and was suitable lavish. But often the inventiveness of small pub theatre productions which have little or no money can add a quirkiness and memorable experience that all the glamour of a big production just can't offer.
This tiny Tempest is set against an abstract backdrop of chess board-like red and green squares dripping down black walls and across a black floor. It is a theme replicated on Ariel's costume emphasising the spirit's role as key chess piece in Prospero's game with his former adversaries the pawns manoeuvred to his island home.
There is no space for Ariel on a wire here, instead the spirit is portrayed in good old-fashioned movement - and charmingly done by Maya Thomas. Indeed I think Ariel was my favourite in the production often putting a smile on my face.
Caliban too, played by Yuriria Fanjul - the first time I've seen a woman take the role - rather than use cushions and make up to add deformity this Caliban has ticks and twitches almost punctuating her speeches with beating her arms and chest and pained noises.
The weak points were Prospero (Matthew Ward) and Miranda (Georgina Morell). The former seemed angry when he didn't need to be and too mild when he ought to be angry and vengeful.
Maybe by design, his relationship with Ariel seemed more true and warm than that with his daughter which seemed to be one of indifference. But then Morrell's Miranda - a girl brought up in isolation with only her Dad and the creature Caliban for company - was so haughty and lacking in any warmth I neither believed that Ferdinand would fall in love with her or that she felt anything other that disdain for him. It puts a different spin on Caliban's attempt to violate her, certainly.
Overall this production has its charms and some lovely moments. I'm going to give it three stars. It runs at the White Bear until 15 January.