On entering the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe Theatre, you feel like you are stepping back in time with its painted ceiling, cushioned benches (a modern luxury) and a candlelit bare stage. It was the perfect setting for this restoration of Matthew Locke’s The Tempest, a masque-like affair with spoken text, lively instrumental music and singing leading us through this well-known story. Directed by Elizabeth Kenny, who led from the theorbo, this eclectic mix of music by Locke and his contemporaries was interspersed – and sometimes interrupted – by a remodelled version of the Shakespeare text, acted by Molly Logan and Dickon Tyrrell, who played all the parts with great aplomb.

Samuel Boden © Robert Bridgens
Samuel Boden
© Robert Bridgens

The play opened with soloists from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment playing an introductory group of Locke’s music – a small dance suite, which led us straight into the Prologue text. The instrumentalists felt rather as if they were warming up through this first group, but came into their own in the first short act with the now-famous Curtain Tune which depicts the shipwreck from which the rest of the story flows. Kenny’s strident theorbo playing was incredibly present – this is an instrument that is often lost in fuller textures – which was a joy to hear and perfect in this small space.

For Act II, we were treated to a masque within a masque. We were joined by tenor Samuel Boden and two trebles, Harry Cookson and Andrew Sinclair-Knopp, who donned masks and wound their way across the stage and through the audience being suitable creepy. Boden’s tenor arias were particularly expressive, with fantastic diction and clearly rhetorical declamatory singing. The space really started to come into its own during this act, with the actors in and among the audience, up in the balconies and on stage.

As the plot thickened, the actors themselves had increasing numbers of characters to play, leading to some comedy gender-swapping moments and a hilarious sword fight between two characters played by the same person! This was aided by the occasional prop or costume item, but on the whole it was managed through body language and some wonderfully pungent regional accents, which were impressively managed throughout by Logan and Tyrrell.

The second half introduced bass singer Frazer Scott and soprano Katherine Watson, who treated us to some beautiful interludes by Banister, Hart and Purcell, including a fun little echo duet between Boden and Scott, sung from the balcony. Again, the diction from all three was exemplary and they gave the language great colour and expressivity, which was engaging and impressive to watch. Watson was a beautiful damsel in distress when her lover died and the interplay between singer, actor and musician was managed beautifully.

Although this was a restoration piece, the whole evening had a vigour and life that made it seem as if we were watching a much more modern production. The depiction of the story through words, music and song was a delightful concoction which flowed with ease from piece to piece and was a feast for all the senses. I thought it showed the great variety that can be achieved through a combination of art forms and hope that there will be more to come in this rekindling of 17th century entertainments.