at Northern Stage, St Stephens on Thursday 8th August 2013
*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*
There’s a lot of Shakespeare at the Fringe. It’s a fairly smart way of getting in audiences and allows you a large amount of creative licence with a well-known play. I doubt there’s any productions more inventive than If Room Enough, however, which takes the story of The Tempest and strips it back completely to form an inventive, imagistic and joyous production which allows us to see the world a little differently.
At the beginning of withWings’s production, the Ariel character (Tom Coxon) emerges from a washing machine (like large cubes, people coming out of white goods seems to be becoming a bit of a trend in UK theatre), thus setting the tone for the rest of the hour. A revolving central blue beach hut allows new things to be discovered throughout and, like a toy box, is a perpetual source of surprise. At one point, Ferdinand and Miranda sit against it with their backs on the ground and feet rising up its side, so we seem to be watching them from above.
The edit on Shakespeare’s text (it really is a rather extreme edit, paring it down to very few words and adding in many of its own) puts the young couple at the centre of the story; this is their play, not Prospero’s. Amazingly, the company have managed to make this normally dull and wishy-washy romance genuinely joyful. The performances from Chloe Crenigan and Tom Figgins show a quirky pair trying to work out how best to fall for one another.
A rich, moving score by Figgins underscores the scene changes and accentuates moments of emotion or comedy. Aggressive, forceful choreography both develops plot and portrays relationships, and is a welcome rest from the endless Frantic Assembly copycats out there, showing genuine innovation and simple ways of making extraordinary images.
The pace and focus sometimes falls a little during the longer scenes, which feel stretched in an otherwise tight show, and sometimes it feels like a little more care could be taken over the original verse in the times that it is used, but the energy elsewhere saves it. If Room Enough is a rich, messy joyride which tries out a load of new ideas and succeeds. Bliss.