The Tempest by Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea July 2-August 2, 2015. A review.

The Tempest by Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea July 2015. A review.

Victoria is a city rich in outdoor sites for summer cultural events, and one of the most spectacular has to be the seaside from Dallas Road.

Robert Light, founder of Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea, now in its fourth season, decided to capitalize on the amazing views of sea, mountains and passing ships for the staging of his festival, which joins the ranks of over twenty other Shakespeares by the Sea.

Situated in a large tent at Clover Point and staged with a majority of natural lighting on a simple stage with a few benches and chairs, this Shakespeare relies heavily on the actors’ ability to interpret the text and provide “noises off” for the sea storms, battles and thunder. An opening in the back tent wall allows for glimpses of the picture-perfect scenery, and for the framing of certain scenes within this backdrop. Actors enter and exit through a central aisle and side walls.

Prospera and Ariel The Tempest July 2015Fran Patterson as Prospera and Colin Mooney as Ariel

The Tempest is most likely the last play written entirely by Shakespeare, and it is remarkable for being one of only two plays by Shakespeare (the other being Love’s Labor’s Lost) whose plot is entirely original.

It’s also one of Shakespeare’s shorter works with a plot line that is comparatively easy to follow. Light has chosen to gender-bend a number of the roles—in the original only the role of Miranda was female (although in all likelihood played by a man). Here, in an audacious move (this role is not often switched although Dame Helen Mirren famously appears in the 2010 movie ), Light has cast Fran Patterson as Prospera, the exiled Duchess of Milan, and Lisa Taylor as her treacherous sister (originally brother) Antonia. Penny Pitcher and Jan Manchur take on the roles of crewwomen Stephana and Trincula full of female charm, movement and manners without making them any less licentious or rowdy. Their scenes together as they become increasingly tipsy provoked much laughter.

Ariel, the spirit, was often played by women from the Restoration forward, and works equally well as male. Colin Mooney captures the playful and fey nature of the sprite with his capricious movements and ready smile.

Patterson is commanding as Prospera with an encompassing stage presence and felicity of tone. Shakespeare does truly trip from her tongue as she sets the stage for the play. There is a manifest delight to her mischief and a sparkle in her eye when all goes according to plan, and great power in her plotting.

Travis Stanley and Sidney Quesnelle, as the young lovers Ferdinand and Miranda, are winsome and adorable, while Lisa Jones (Antonia) and Bill Nance (Sebastian) are particularly odious as they plot and scheme.  The two elder statesmen, Alonso King of Naples (Bill Tolson) and Gonzalo (Ken Yvorchuk) maintain an air of aggrieved gravitas throughout. Tim Martin (Francisco) and Michael Proctor (Boatswain) are stalwarts. James Johnson as Caliban is by turns frightful and pitiful as he mourns the loss of his beloved island and attempts to win it back.

Set in the present day, the costumes are at times fantastical, particularly for Ariel with looping scarves and fringed edges, and in Prospera’s magician’s garment. Costumers Susan Gibson-Mooney, Mary Gibson and Sidney Quesnelle brought levity to the forefront in dressing the dancers at Ferdinand and Miranda’s wedding—their long ecclesiastical robes and straw hats, complete with flowering staffs were striking visually when coupled with the regal garments of Iris (Victoria Stark), Juno (Jan Manchur) and Ceres (Lisa Taylor).

On a simple stage, with an enviable backdrop, director Robert Light focuses on the Bard’s immortal text to tell this timeless tale of reconciliation, of authority lost and won, and family re-united. The ensemble, many of whom have been together since the company’s inception, is solid, capable of transitioning from storm-tossed opening—slipping and sliding across the stage in the manner of cartoon characters—through machinations and ceremony to the final happy ending.

Above all, the success of The Tempest resides firmly on the shoulders of Fran Patterson (who carries the double weight of Polonia in Hamlet) in her assured passage from bitter and vengeful to merciful and loving.

At just over two hours including intermission, this production is well-paced and choreographed with plenty of action and comedy to appeal to a wide range of audience members.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Light
Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea
Clover Point, Victoria BC
July 2-August 2, 2015
Fridays at 7pm, Sundays at 2 and 7pm (The Tempest)
Thursdays at 7pm, Saturdays at 2 and 7pm (Hamlet)
Tickets: $25 Adults, $20 Students/Senior/Fixed Income
Children 12 and under FREE with adult
Advanced tickets available at Ticket Rocket
Search SHAKESPEARE under “All Events”
CASH ONLY at the door

Please note that Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea will be travelling to Sidney BC and Nanaimo in September.


Prospera – Fran Patterson
Ariel – Colin Mooney
Miranda – Sidney Quesnelle
Ferdinand – Travis Stanley
Caliban – James Johnson
Alonso – Bill Tolson
Sebastian – Bill Nance
Antonia & Ceres – Lisa Taylor
Gonzalo – Ken Yvorchuk
Francisco – Tim Martin
Stephana – Penny Pitcher
Trincula & Juno – Jan Manchur
Boatswain – Michael Proctor
Iris – Victoria Stark

Director – Robert Light
Costumes – Susan Gibson-Mooney, Mary Gibson and Sidney Quesnelle

Further Reading:

Disclaimer: I was graciously provided with a complimentary ticket to The Tempest for the purposes of writing a review.

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