Review: This Noisy Isle, The Higgins Museum, Bedford

As part of a collaboration with The Place, Bedford, we are publishing reviews by three young writers between June and August 2019. This is the second one 12 year old Zahid Mahee.

This Noisy Isle is an interactive treasure hunt inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In the grounds of The Higgins Gallery, Bedford groups of people explore the course of this adventure directed by Ross Drury of Spun Glass Theatre Company. Drawing from themes of migration and travel this production casts its audience in the role of refugees arriving in a strange land. It is advertised for children aged 7 – 11, but as a 12 year-old I feel that this production is more suitable for children between 6 and 8 as the story is very simple and we do not hear the characters’ backstories. However, I liked finding the clues and figuring out which way to go. Also, I have never seen an outdoor performance, and the landscape of The Higgins gardens make it a unique local experience, although I would like to see the performance areas marked out more definitely with sound effects and some pieces of set.

The characters we meet in This Noisy Isle give a different perspective of what arriving in a new land might be like. There are four actors along the journey, who play Miranda (Kimberley Capero), Caliban (Callan Durrant), Prospero (Pepa Duarte) and Ariel (Andrew Armfield). Following a map, we first discover Miranda in ‘the wood’, dressed like a fairy. She speaks to the audience in what sounds like gibberish, but then reveals the secret to understanding the words she says. It is confusing, but challenges you to think, and this process sets the scene for meeting the other characters. At ‘the mountains’, Caliban is weird and scary, and acts like an uncivilised drunk person, sniffing audience members and creating a very awkward atmosphere. His costume is modern-day hippy, which is different from mythical interpretations of Caliban I have seen before. Here, Caliban is a prisoner of the island who does not follow the rules, scaring the audience members with his unpredictable actions. Miranda and Caliban talk about how fierce Prospero is, but when we reach Prospero in the garden he is quite gentle, and performs unsuccessful magic tricks, making you question his power. Ariel lives in a bush beside ‘the beach’ and talks about the importance of stories in our lives. The audience sings a song with Ariel, before writing a ‘nice thought’ down and posting it in a glass jar. This was one of my favourite parts because it makes me feel happy.

Being cast as refugees is an experience a lot of us might not ever have, but in this production we see what it is like to not understand a language and experience people and customs from a strange land, some of whom are not as we think they will be. This production encourages its audience to think creatively and imaginatively, and engage with ideas of migration and refugees which is very important. Overall, I am glad I saw it.

This Noisy Isle was performed in the grounds of The Higgins Museum, Bedford on 22 June.