Bristol Shakespeare Festival has been a season of literary riches, presenting the Bard’s plays on hillsides, in halls and even beneath the city in Redcliffe Caves. I was drawn to watch the latter, in the form of The Tempest Within, a reimagining of The Tempest performed in only 40 minutes.
The two actors provided the roles of Miranda, Ariel, Caliban and a female version of Prospero. Miranda and Prospera were cast out to sea when Miranda was only three. Twelve years later, she is on the brink of adulthood and her mother is crumbling – torn between her loving motherly side and the villainous Caliban who possesses her from time to time.
It’s a complex tale about mothers and daughters, and the challenges faced by protective mothers who know they must allow their children to grow up and leave to have full lives, despite the fears this awakes in them. Ariel serves to represent Miranda’s thirst for escape, while Caliban, who Miranda describes as a “villain I do not care to look upon”, and who in Shakespeare’s version attempts to rape Miranda, represents the uglier instincts of motherhood, which Prospera must overcome to save her daughter.
The setting of Redcliffe Caves is particularly apt for this struggle through the human psyche. We arrived on a blazing bright day and wandered into the darkness to follow tunnels lit only by trails of tea lights – an effect that emphasised the impression of entering another world. The arching columns and shadowy stage provided a sense of both the characters’ home and their internal, emotional conflicts.
It’s a totally immersive experience and highly recommended, but bring a jumper (however hot it is outside the caves are very chilly) and a comfy seat to enjoy fully with no distractions.