A Brit's trip to 'The Tempest' and the tomatoes - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

A Brit’s trip to ‘The Tempest’ and the tomatoes

(Flying tomatoes. Photo by Will Kirk)

Editor’s Note: Claire took a week off from Forty Shades of Fitness and decided to exercise her British mind by visiting the Shakespeare Factory. While not one of our regular theatre reviews, here’s a Brit’s take on her Shakespeare and tomato experience.

I  recently took some girlfriends to see some Shakespeare, courtesy of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.

‘Twas The Tempest being performed in a church hall-type place in Hampden, Baltimore. Shakespeare’s last play and one that I haven’t actually seen performed before. Yes, I’ve seen Russell Brand’s drunk Trinculo and Dame Helen (I’m British, we don’t have to use surnames 😉 ) being a female Prospero, but there ain’t nuffink like a live Shakespeare.

Firstly, I had to check I was not in the UK as we pulled up to the front of the church – it felt a little British. If you aren’t British, I can’t really explain this; you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Anyway, we were asked by a very nice girl if we wanted to buy a bag of [not real, just soft and beany] tomatoes.
What for? we enquired. To throw at the actors, said the girl politely.

I gasped inwardly. Goodness me, what a to do! I come from the old-school Shakespeare players where we were VERY important  on stage and people respected us in our doublet and hose as we spouted forth the iambic pentameter and coloured our words and phrases with dark and light intonation.

Stephano and Caliban

Stephano and Caliban (Will Kirk)

That aside, we responded that yes, please, we would very much like a bag of fake tomatoes to throw at the actors.

And the play began. Gordon Bennett, I do declare – who is THAT? We girls shot a look of approval at each other as Prospero (Ian Blackwell Rogers) turned to face us, his eyes dark with Chanel mascara and his wild, unruly hair and goatee making him a very commanding presence. He thrust his large staff at us and that was it, he had us in the palm of his very-nice and masculine-looking hands. In fact, I couldn’t help but think that he looked very like an ex-ex-ex (x3) boyfriend of mine.

Mesmerised, and therefore rooting for the striking Prospero, we danced and laughed along with the merry high-jinx and magic of The Tempest. And then the tomatoes started flying.

I know that in Shakespeare’s time they flung rotten veg and wotnot at the actors on stage, but I’m British and I just didn’t feel comfortable…until – oooh, that tomato got Caliban (James Miller) in the dingle-dangles!!! Oh, I see – this can be fun!

One woman took it upon herself to stand in the aisle and take direct aim at Caliban, to whom she had obviously taken a huge dislike. She got him perfectly, and how we laughed! I began to feel a little sorry for him.

Anyhow, the plot went on up hill and down dale and in typical Shakespeare fashion we were given a few ditties, sung beautifully by Ariel (Jenna K. Rossman). We even had some intermission renditions of Lourdes, The Little Mermaid and UB40. Strange, but true (I now get that they were thematically related to the production….see below.)

Prospero amd Areil

Prospero amd Areil (Will Kirk)

We began to muse that the cast resembled some famous people. Antonio (Joel Ottenheimer) looked like Pete from Mad Men and Ariel was the spit of British actress Olivia Coleman. However, we did not let this distract us…..drunk antics and sparkly codpieces ensued, and Prospero thrust his large staff at a few people and did the famous ‘ We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On’ quote, which made my spine tingle , folks got married, and everyone gathered together and all was well again. Huzzah!

I love a little epilogue at the end of a play. Prospero’s is not one I am familiar with, but I loved the delivery, especially the last line: ‘Let your indulgence set me free’. We did indulge, and we threw tomatoes, so thank you Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, for a very memorable performance.









About the author

Claire Bolden

Claire Bolden McGill is a British expat who lived in Maryland for three years and moved back to the UK in August 2015. Claire wrote about her life as a British expat on the East Coast and now works in travel and hospitality PR in the UK. She still finds time to blog about her repatriation and the reverse culture shock that ensued - and she still hasn't finished that novel, but she's working on it. You can contact Claire via twitter on @clairebmcgill or via her blog From America to England. Contact the author.

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