The only production I’ve seen which compares to I, Caliban and I, Peaseblossom was A Christmas Carol, performed by Simon Callow at the Arts Theatre, London.
It was a powerful performance requiring a monumental effort throughout its relatively short performance.
It is a testament to actor Jimmy Whiteaker’s stamina that despite I, Caliban and I, Peaseblossom’s two-hour run time he doesn’t miss a beat, delivering a vivid and memorable performance throughout.
Created by Tim Crouch, both short, hour-long plays are his take on two of Shakespeare’s most memorable minor characters from The Tempest and Midsummer’s Nights Dream, entirely reimagined for a young audience.
First with have Caliban; son of the witch Sycorax. He is depicted by Shakespeare as a terrible monster, attempted rapist and would-be murderer, barely controlled by his master Prospero- the exiled Duke of Milan.
But Tim Crouch’s reimagining of Caliban is a sympathetic one.
An imaginative set design sees him marooned on a desert island surrounded by the detritus of a great storm.
Books, nets and broken crates litter the tiny stage, and it is in this microcosm that Whiteaker truly shines, with a soulful and likeable portrayal of Caliban as he recounts the series of events leading up to his eventual abandonment and his lingering grief for the loss of his mother.
As well as an imaginative use of props including a tape recorder, figures representing characters from The Tempest and a bucket of water (liberally showered over the audience at one point) Whiteaker’s clear freedom to improvise allows for some memorable audience interaction.
I, Peaseblossom is where this becomes particularly important, with Whiteaker playing the part of naive fairy Peaseblossom as he recounts through a series of dreams the backstory of the lovers and his own perspective on events.
Dressed in an anorak suggestive of festival attendant the play’s beginning is particularly brilliant, with Peaseblossom blessing audience members before allocating them roles. His use of workman’s tools to portray the terrible performance of the six workman who perform a tragedy during the course of Midsummer Night’s Dream is particularly imaginative.
I, Caliban and I, Peaseblossom make use of excellent set design to tell their stories, and both plays are supported by a limited but apt use of sound effect and simple lighting changes.
But Whiteaker’s excellent performance is absolutely captivating, fuelling an excellent and imaginative adaptation of two of Shakespeare’s classic works.