The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s most-staged works, despite – or perhaps because of – ongoing debate about what, ultimately, it’s about.

The Courtyard theatre’s new production, which opened last night, opts to bring out the otherworldly spectacle of the play, to remarkable effect.

Bringing together senior youth theatre groups from Hereford, Ledbury and Bromyard, it makes a few innovations in order to fit the play, with its sole notionally female role, to a predominantly female cast.

Most strikingly the spirit Ariel, servant of the unnamed island’s magical ruler Prospero, becomes “the Ariels”, a posse of ethereal nymphs who carry out their master’s bidding, leading and toying with the bemused shipwreck survivors, with whom Prospero has some history, who wash ashore on the island.

Here the work of “aerial instructor” (surely no pun intended?) Joanne Ockwell of Wye Circus can be seen in the Ariels’ use of hanging hoops and silk slings amid their elaborate choreography.


Adding to this is the innovative music, composed and produced by students of Hereford College of Arts, which fits well in a play that even in its original form called for much musical accompaniment.

Hereford Times: Noah Shepherd as Ferdinand and Amy Sheridan as Miranda. Picture: Kie CummingsNoah Shepherd as Ferdinand and Amy Sheridan as Miranda. Picture: Kie Cummings

Shakespeare’s often dense dialogue can put demands on audiences, and there are moments, not only when the music is playing, when some of it is lost.

But praise must go to the main characters in particular, with Jake Dixon as the introspective and fickle Prospero, while Amy Sheridan as his unworldly daughter Miranda and Noah Shepherd as the newly arrived Ferdinand are compelling as the young lovers whom Prospero match-makes before putting to the test.

Jarko Palfi also captures the ambiguity of the downtrodden Caliban (aided by a band of “Calibans”), a contentious figure as the island’s original inhabitant who schemes with two of the island’s arrivals to overthrow his master Prospero.

Hereford Times: Jarko Parfi's Caliban, with fellow 'Calibans'. Picture: Kie CummingsJarko Parfi's Caliban, with fellow 'Calibans'. Picture: Kie Cummings

This is a production to be enjoyed on a number of levels, and whatever its meaning in the end, we (including my daughter, a Shakespeare novice) were swept along in its telling.

The Tempest continues at the Courtyard, Edgar Street, Hereford tonight (Friday) and Saturday at 7.30pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets are £16, concessions £14, Courtyard Card £5.

An exhibition of artwork inspired by the play by Hereford College of Arts students continues in the theatre foyer until Tuesday August 2.