Mirando: The Gay Tempest, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a love story, a swan song and a spectacle of supernatural life. It lends itself well to adaptation what with its complex, intertwining themes. In Mirando: The Gay Tempest, Martin Lewin turns the play into a solo performance told through a gay lens. Completely nude with a liberal coating of silver body spray, Lewin transforms Prospero’s daughter into a son and camps up some of the supporting roles. Though competently performed, there is too little focus on Mirando and Ferdinand’s blossoming love and in a solo performance, the relationships Lewin wants to focus on  are difficult to convey. It is certainly an interesting experiment, but one that does not completely follow through on its intentions.

Lewin is in the space and chatting with the audience as they enter; this immediately diminishes any awkwardness created by finding a naked man. Lewin’s use of text also draws attention away from his nudity and onto the story he tells us. With a triangle of colour-changing rope lights on the floor and a few wooden chairs, the audience focus is completely on him and his tale. Other than the play being set in on a wild island populated by all sorts of creatures, the justification behind Lewin’s nakedness isn’t clear. It didn’t create an issue, but neither did it add much to the production.

The edit Lewin created uses stage directions to add context and clarity; though initially surprising, they prove helpful.  His characters are often very similar, with little vocal variation. Some have distinct physical traits: Ariel has wings, Stephano is a constantly moving gym bunny and Caliban, in his bestial earthiness, cannot resist constantly fondling himself. There are both speeches and scenes, but the most powerful and moving moments are Prospero’s monologues and the two scenes between Ferdinand and Mirando. The comic characters are fine, but not the strongest.

Though there is no designer credited, the sound and lighting works towards supporting the atmosphere, but sound isn’t used nearly enough. Shakespeare’s rich description goes a long way in supporting the imagery, but the other senses are neglected, especially with this being a text-heavy piece.

Though not a bad piece by any means and Lewin’s characters are the best aspect, he tries to do too much in a minimalist one-person show. The concepts are certainly valid, but they need further clarity and justification to make this a great piece of theatre.

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