Watching this company of actors performing is an awe-inspiring experience. Their energy and sense of enjoyment is one thing you take away with you each time you watch the Blue Apple. This group of almost 40 actors with various degrees of learning disabilities produce some challenging pieces of theatre. This production of The Tempest is no exception.
Tommy Jessop as photographed below leads this production in the role of Prospero. On the whole, he is a strong lead and delivers his part with conviction. You can see the other cast members look up to him as they all work closely together on stage.
Katie Francis as ever is incredible. This young lady is a natural leading lady. Each time I see her she commands the stage and despite being under 5ft she has an enormous presence and a strong delivery in this wordy Shakespeare play as she plays the role of Miranda.
Ariel looked fantastic dressed in blue with long flowing wings to add grace to the character’s performance as the spirit. The characters that play the sea are adorned in blue netting around their neck with blue rubber gloves that have seaweed attached to them, which is extremely effective. Costume designer Polly Perry has created a fantastic array of outfits for this wonderful production.
Shakespeare’s humour runs throughout this play. The scenes between Trinculo and Stephano are hilarious and my friend commented: “that’s the best production of that scene I have ever watched”. Tom Hatchett and Sam Dace have a fantastic working rapport and certainly bring out the best in each other.
The stage set is one centrepiece that rotates 360 degrees. One section is Prospero’s home and the other is the Island. Every attention to detail has been taken into consideration from the books to seaweed and shells. This could very easily be a set one could imagine being in a West End production.
There are additional scenes and parts added to this production to encompass more of the company with the crew from the ship performing too. If it was your first encounter with The Tempest you would not know they were not on the original text.
This production has three performances taking place at the Theatre Royal Winchester with future plans to take it on tour to the Baltics. I wish them every success with this and I have no doubt they will thoroughly enjoy it.
When Jane Jessop had the vision to set up this theatre company in 2005 for her son Tommy to follow his passion, who could have foreseen the incredible path it has now taken. She has now set the stage for so many with similar challenges to him to follow their dreams and be who they want to be. A truly incredible achievement.
If you get the opportunity please go and see Blue Apple in action on stage.
Playing on Thursday 13th, Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June 2019.
Theatre Royal Winchester
Blue Apple Theatre
Faculty of Arts
University of Winchester