Monday, April 22

The Tempest – Royden Park

Staging their first production since the pandemic, The Hillbark Players transport the audience to a magical, timeless place in their interpretation of The Tempest by Shakespeare. With the bard’s magical play being set on a beautiful natural island, where better to see it than outdoors in the natural open-air arena?

The setting is serene. Surrounded by historic woodland, the theatre is a rectangular area of grass that has stands around it on three sides. This setting adds a lot to The Hillbark Players somewhat steampunk performance because it places the audience both within the play setting generally and, with the movement of the actors coming in from all areas, within the ‘island’ itself. There is an immersive element to this production.

Directed by Martin Riley, The Tempest provides a fantastical evening of entertainment. Encounter magic, monsters, conspiracy and treachery as well as love and redemption, all against the serene backdrop of lush, leafy trees letting the sunset blink through. Featuring an interesting array of characters, the performance has something for everyone.

Early on, the audience is introduced to lead characters such as Prospero (Carl Howard), his daughter Miranda (Sarah Randle), sprightly spirit Ariel (Millie Bryant) and savage slave Caliban (Charles Riley). With Prospero’s magic abound and mischievous Ariel’s stirring up trouble, there is never a dull moment. Having been banished from his kingdom with his daughter, Prospero is riddled with anger towards his brother and those who wronged him.

When shipwrecked Prince Ferdinand (Conor Medlock) arrives on the island – aided by some meddling from Ariel – he catches Miranda’s eye, setting in motion Prospero’s grand plan. However, will Prospero begin to mellow? Can hope and introspection turn the destructive emotions of vengeance?

Staging and scenery were minimal for this performance and had clearly been carefully considered. The minimalist style allows the audience to focus on the unfolding story before them and really brings Shakespeare’s vision to life.

It can sometimes be hard to understand spoken Shakespeare but that isn’t an issue with The Hillbark Players. Every word is enunciated clearly, and speech is riveting to listen to paired with the mannerisms and movements of the actors – there is nothing amateur about this amateur dramatics group. The movements of Ariel were bewitching and the dialogue between Miranda and Prospero mesmerising.

Comedy is provided by characters Trinculo (Pauline Garland) and Stefano (Simon Garland) when they happen upon Caliban. There’s singing, there’s dancing and there are laughs aplenty – with great timing and camaraderie, it is easy to forget this is a performance.

The Tempest from the Hillbark Players is well worth watching. The production is really cohesive in its timings, costumes, stage movements and scripting, and laden with clear chemistry between the actors. Book your ticket at and see for yourself.

Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle

Reviewed: 23rd June 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★