For the person who has never watched a production by the Actors from the London Stage at UTSA, it will be easier for him or her to stay focused on what is happening on stage if the play is read prior to the performance. As the cast is often fast spoken, it is easier for one to stay on track if he or she is familiar with the plot and characters.
Another complex aspect about the production is that the players are cast in several roles—five actors collectively played 16 different roles in this season’s production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”—and it is common for a player to act as two different characters who ultimately interact with one another in the same scene. Once the audience has a grasp on this untraditional style of performance, the Actors from the London Stage marvel theatergoers with their wit and versatility.
Standing atop a pentagram made from white tape that sets the stage for the remote island in “The Tempest,” the Actors from the London Stage tell the story of the sorcerer Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Player Dale Rapley demands attention in the role of Prospero as he demonstrates his command of magic when he puts Miranda under a sleeping spell and beckons his mischievous but obedient sprite Ariel.
Jennifer Kidd, the troupe’s only female actress, makes the most distinguished transformation of the five players as she alternates roles from naïve Miranda to ominous Ariel. Kidd is childlike in nature when she is Miranda, but her stare becomes black and hollow when she casually phases into Ariel by a mere upward turn of a wrist. Ariel’s job is to carry out any orders that are given to him by Prospero, so Kidd spends a majority of the play running the perimeter of the island, which displays Ariel’s ability to easily get to where he is told to be. When Ariel is hovering over the island, Kidd’s menacing gaze and the way she swiftly shifts her weight on her heels in a circular motion tells of Ariel’s supernatural presence.
Despite the lack of backdrop and the minimal use of props and costumes, the players are exuberant with every word spoken and motion rendered. To waver the tone of the play from scene to scene, the players rely on a small, white megaphone to create a hypnotic, dreamlike mood by soothingly chanting, singing and humming through the megaphone. The megaphone is also used on stage side to create the distant sound of malevolent laughter, as well as the boisterous echo of an evil spirited voice.
The Actors from the London Stage prove that a successful production can be rooted from simplicity, and can be just as stimulating and substantial as a major theatrical production with a skilled and impassioned cast of players.